Just over two minutes later, Kessel scooped up a puck in the neutral zone and skipped around Murray, firing a perfect wrister just inside Budaj’s right post.
“I don’t know if it was Bozak or Lupul who made a spinorama, around-the-back pass that went through maybe two skates, maybe a couple of sticks and ends up right on Kessel’s stick for a breakaway,” Pacioretty said. “I’m right there with Kessel but I don’t really see the puck coming until the last second . . . it’s just the way things were going for us then.”
So he didn’t anticipate the behind-the-back pass through a thicket of skates and sticks?
“Through the neutral zone? No. I don’t think that’s something they practice too often,” smiled Pacioretty, a U.S. Olympic teammate of Kessel and van Riemsdyk (he has known the latter since childhood).
In fairness, the goal was coming – between Pacioretty’s goal and Kessel’s go-ahead marker, the Leafs fired 21 shots at the Montreal net.
Afterward, Montreal coach Michel Therrien called a timeout.
“The bench was really down after the third goal so I just wanted to tell them there’s still a lot of hockey to play,” he said.
Pacioretty credited the tactic – and Therrien’s generally positive outlook of late – with lifting the team’s spirits.
“(Therrien) has been so positive with us lately, whether it be when we’re struggling – we were struggling there tonight too – when you see your coach motivating you and being positive like that, everyone got the message right away. It showed in our game, and he’s really found a way to get this group to rally together and tonight was a good example of that,” he said.
The lead was indeed short-lived, after an ill-advised diagonal clear-in bounced to Gionta, the referee’s arm went up when Gleason rubbed the dimunitive Habs winger out along the boards.
Subban was subsequently allowed to fire a trio of his trademark heavy slapshots at Bernier, the last of which caromed in off the goaltender.
Afterward, the recent Canadian Olympian – who was benched on Thursday in Pittsburgh after making a costly turnover that lead to a goal – mostly expressed relief.
“I’m still trying to get my timing back after the break. I kinda feel like I’m skating in quicksand,” he said.
With 30.7 seconds to play in regulation, Kessel flipped a clearing attempt over the glass, although the lapse wouldn’t prove fatal..
The Habs wouldn’t squander a second chance at the man-advantage.
Budaj, meanwhile, is 2-0-1 in relief of Price, who will be on the Habs’ upcoming four-game Western swing.
“Sure I want to shine,” Budaj said, “but you play for the logo on the front, not the name on the back.”