Shall we start calling him Mr. Elimination?
In Game 4 against Tampa Bay, Max Pacioretty scores a power-play goal with 43 seconds left in a 3-3 game.
The loss ends the Lightning season.
Three weeks later, the Canadiens take to the ice for Game 6, trailing Boston three wins to two.
Pacioretty has a goal and an assist in a 4-0 win that sends the series back to Boston, where Pacioretty scores again in the 3-1 win that sends the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Final.
Tuesday night at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens faced elimination for the third time in the 2014 playoffs.
Rene Bourque was the hero, of course. He scored three goals in 12:21 of ice time and narrowly missed a fourth with the New York net empty.
In 63 regular-season games, Bourque scored nine times. His lack of production and, on too many nights, seeming lack of commitment had Canadiens fans wondering how the heck this guy scored 27 goals in back-to-back seasons for Calgary.
Maybe that Bourque is back. He’s scored eight times in 16 playoff games.
So Rene Bourque 2.0 is Mr. Clutch.
And in the wild 7-4 win that sent this series back to Madison Square Garden, Mr. Elimination had a goal and an assist. Pacioretty also helped a Canadiens penalty-kill that killed five of six shorthanded situations, including a 5-on-3.
We know Mrs. Elimination and Clutch will be in the Canadiens’ lineup Thursday night. But who comes out for Brandon Prust?
Daniel Brière? He was minus-2 in only 5:49 of ice time in Game 5.
But Brière is a proven playoff performer. He’s part of a Canadiens power play that is showing glimmers of life, and Brière can win faceoffs.
The likely scratch when Prust returns from his two-game suspension is Michäel Bournival. That’s too bad, because the kid’s speed and forechecking tenacity have been assets against the Rangers.
Maybe Michel Therrien will take a chance on Bournival and sit Brière. Or maybe the Ol’ Riverboat Gambler will really shake up his club by sitting Thomas Vanek.
Nah, that’s not going to happen. Vanek played only 8:55 in Game 5, but he’s a down-low presence on a power-play that has to take some of the pressure off its point men, P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov.
And yanking a veteran – be it Brière or Vanek – might not play well in the Canadiens’ room.
We’ll just leave this call to Therrien. And we do so with confidence, because the kindly old coach had been pushing a lot of right buttons in the Canadiens’ playoff run.
A prime example of Therrien’s acumen was his decision not to call a Timeout after that second-period meltdown that saw the Rangers score three times in less than five minutes.
In his postgame press conference, Therrien said he didn’t call Timeout because he liked the team’s attitude on the bench, even as a 4-1 lead was evaporating and Bell Centre fans were flocking to the concession stands to load up on Valium.
(Josie Gold’s take):
Less than a minute after the dastardly Chris Kreider tied the game, Bourque converted a Dale Weise pass to restore the Canadiens lead and set up a third period during which Dustin Tokarski would make 11 clutch saves while his teammates were salting the win away.
The line of Bourque, Weise and Lars Eller (two assists, plus-3, 8-8 on faceoffs) was terrific. On the drive home, I heard some of the TSN 690 guys second-guessing Weise’s return to the game after the head shot that should earn John Moore a suspension. Therrien said the medical staff cleared Weise, but it was 6-4 at that point. I’d hate for the rugged winger, who can really motor for a big guy and is great on the PK, to wake up with a bad headache Wednesday morning.
There will be more than a few sore noggins in Montreal after Game 5. The downtown streets outside the Bell Centre were packed with joyous fans after the game, their whooping punctuated by honking car horns.
The city loves this edition of the Canadiens because these guys don’t quit. The Rangers may very well end the series on home ice Thursday, but they’ll have to earn it.
The Canadiens’ spirit is exemplified by players like Gallagher, Tokarski, Weise, Mike Weaver (almost 20 minutes of ice time, five blocked shots.
None of them were high draft choices. All of them play their hearts out.
Their work ethic has to be an inspiration to the more gifted players, such as Alex Galchenyuk and Nathan Beaulieu, recent first-round picks who are responding well to playoff pressure.
Galchenyuk, who opened the scoring, is getting better with each game. His vision and playmaking ability have fans looking forward to the kid’s inevitable move to centre.
Beaulieu played a shade over 10 minutes and didn’t look nervous. His ability to skate the puck out of trouble is a sight to behold.
I’m nearly 800 words into this without mentioning P.K. He played 30:25 – including 3:03 on the penalty-kill – had four shots on goal, three hits and three blocks.
Ryan McDonough played 25:52 and was on for three goals against. His goaltender was beaten four times on 19 shots before giving way to Cam Talbot.
One more sleep, and then Game 6.
• And the Academy Award for the absolute worst acting EVER goes to … envelope please … Tomas Plekanec. Seriously, dude. You made Adam Sandler look like Robert De Niro.
• LOVE this: https://vine.co/v/MdbhL72hUQM