Boston had led for only 11 minutes and change before Saturday night, and when they got their chariot out front, they were keen to keep going at full gallop.
“We’re a pretty good team with a lead. If it’s a three-goal lead or two-goal lead, we try to play the same way. I think today was a pretty good example of that. We just kept going and playing our system. It gives you that little breathing room there when you have a lead,” said Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, who stopped 29 of 31 shots to earn his second straight home win against Montreal, a team he had never beaten at TD Garden until these playoffs.
Now the Habs head back to Montreal trailing 3-2 in the series, and thoughts of what might have been could start edging their way into their collective consciousness.
What if they hadn’t bungled a two-goal lead in game two? What if they’d managed to find an overtime winner in game four on home ice?
Michel Therrien may also rue some of his lineup and tactical decisions. But the there will be ample time for second-guessing.
Prior to the game, much of the talk was about Montreal’s Max Pacioretty, who after scoring 39 goals in the regular season has just one in the postseason, and none against Boston.
He showed his speed early, whizzing past Boston’s Zdeno Chara on the outside, but as has too often been the case for the big American, it was all build-up and no end product.
Pacioretty would take the evening’s first penalty and register 6 shots in the game, and chipped in an assist on Subban’s goal.
Fans may have thought the coach’s decision to scratch Daniel Brière, a point-a-game guy in the playoffs over his career, in favour of a clearly diminished Brandon Prust would prove costly.
Or that Therrien’s willingness to stick with the slow-footed Douglas Murray on defence in a game where he didn’t have the advantage of last change, might bite him where it hurts.
Instead, the player who cost the Habs most dearly was the man considered to be their most reliable forward.
There must have been an occasion where Tomas Plekanec has taken three penalties in a game before, but not recently.
Though the Habs survived Plekanec’s interference penalty in the first period, they didn’t have the same luck when he iced the puck despite being under minimal pressure.
With Murray and Alexei Emelin on the ice against the Bruins’ third line – the team’s best in game four – Plekanec lost the subsequent draw, Murray chased Loui Eriksson behind the net, the pass ticked off Emelin’s stick to an open Soderberg in the slot.
The big Swede’s shot was partially stopped by Price, “it hit the top of my pad,” he said, but tipped up and into the top of the net.
After a pair of fruitless Montreal powerplays – there were as many penalties assessed in the first half of the first period as there had been in the previous two games combined – Plekanec barrelled in toward the Boston net in search of a loose puck.
As he did, his stick came up on Tuukka Rask, the Finn fell backward, then retaliated with a punch to Plekanec’s head. A melee followed, only one player went to the box: Plekanec.
That was at the end of the first period, and on fresh ice to start the second, the Bruins wasted little time in making Montreal pay.
After a nice bit of lateral interplay at the point, Dougie Hamilton’s shot caromed off Reilly Smith’s stick and skate and slithered through a helpless Price’s legs at 1:04.
It was Boston’s first power-play goal of the series, snapping a string of 10 straight Montreal kills.
Plekanec left the box to take the draw at centre ice, and just 26 seconds later, had a coming together in the Habs’ end with Boston defenceman Johnny Boychuck; Plekanec’s stick came up, Boychuk’s head snapped back, and it was another powerplay for the Bruins.