Resilience is defined as the ability to adapt to stressful situations and adversity – it’s what makes the hockey world go round.
The Oxford English Dictionary reliably informs us the term also refers to an object or substance’s ability to spring back to its original form after being bent, stretched, or compressed.
More than anything, the series involving the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins is a contest of wills between a pair of veteran squads that, as Boston’s Patrice Bergeron put it “will never let go.”
The NHL is also about bending, stretching and compressing, and Saturday the Habs and Bruins took turns being both distressed object and springing force.
On this occasion Boston succeeded in clawing back a 3-1 third-period deficit to win 5-3. The win was the Bruins 17th afternoon win this year in 21 games.
The offshoot is that a series the Habs very nearly led 2-0 despite being out-played during healthy stretches returns to Montreal in a 1-1 stalemate.
It didn’t have to be this way, but for a Montreal club that prides itself on being too tough to twist out of shape, that’s okay.
“We’ve just got regroup and realize the situation we’re in. We’re in a good spot and move forward,” said goaltender Carey Price, who offered his second majestic performance in as many games.
Yes, he ended up yielding four times, but two of the Bruins’ goals bounced in off Montreal defenceman Francis Bouillon, another was through thicket of players, and the last was set up by a lucky bounce off Habs forward Brendan Gallagher’s stick.
Price was asked by a reporter afterward if the setback would affect his confidence (the reporter, it has to be said, clearly doesn’t know much about the Team Canada goalie).
“No, not at all,” Price said. “It’s time to regroup like, I said. Winners regroup and realize the situation we’re in. Thought we did an excellent job so far. We came and did what we wanted to do, split these two games. We’ve got to move forward and take it to them on home ice.”
The 26-year-old, who suffered his first loss of the playoffs against five victories, faced a far more manageable 34 shots (after seeing 51 in game one) although he was called upon to make spectacular stops on at least a half-dozen occasions.
There might be a medium-term benefit to his poise: it can create indecision. Boston’s shooters have shown evidence that they believe only a perfect shot will beat him, several wide-open chances were passed up on Saturday that would have been taken against a lesser goalie.
After the game, Price was typically cool and measured.
“We weren’t expecting to come in here and sweep two games,” said Price. “I think keeping in mind what we came in here to do. Like I said, It’s all about moving forward at this point. That’s what winning teams do and you’ve got to have a winning attitude. You can’t hit panic right now.”
The Canadiens were overwhelmed by Boston’s neutral-zone game and lateral passing in the first game, but responded with a much stronger and more aggressive defensive effort on Saturday, for swaths of the game they clogged lanes, cut off passes and put suffocating back-pressure on the Bruins (they limited the Bruins to just one shot in the first 10 minutes of the third).
But it wasn’t enough.
“I didn’t think we played our best game, with that said the series is tied up, we get to bring it back home,” said Brian Gionta. “Two games in a row, we’ve let it get away from us. We’ve got to be better at locking it down.”
For the second straight game, the Habs blew a two-goal lead, which has become an epidemic of sorts in these playoffs.
After jumping out to a 3-1 lead with 10 minutes to play in the game, the Habs’ defence yielded four times – three of them in the space of just 5:32, the last into an empty net in the final minute.
About that empty-netter: the Bell Centre fans will surely have taken note of the chest-pounding vigour with which Milan Lucic celebrated scoring it.