P.K. Subban’s postgame kiss for NBC analyst Pierre McGuire will only go down as the second most famous man-on-man peck of the past week, but the events that precipitated it were just as memorable as Michael Sam’s moment in the spotlight.
Montreal was a decided underdog in its Eastern Conference semifinal series with big, bad Boston. The Bruins had the playoff pedigree, deep forward lines, a Norris Trophy-caliber defenseman, maybe the best goalie in the world — and home-ice advantage.
And yet, Subban was willing to stick his neck out before Game 7 at TD Garden and challenge a proud and always vocal city.
"All that matters is the guys in this dressing room, the organization, and my coaches," he said. "I really don’t care what people have to say. I really don’t care what the other team thinks. I don’t care what their fans think. If they hate me, great, hate me. We’ll just keep winning, I’ll keep scoring, and we’ll move on. That’s my attitude."
And that’s exactly what the Canadiens did, stunning everybody’s overwhelming favorite to win the East — on the road, no less.
Montreal got an early goal from Dale Weise, a one-timer from Max Pacioretty and breathing room from playoff marvel Danny Briere to upset the Bruins in seven games and make amends for last season’s seven-game loss to Boston in this same round.
"I think our team solved a lot of the critics," Weise told reporters afterward. "They say we’re too small and the big, bad Bruins are going to manhandle us. We just have so many little guys that just compete, and they’re tenacious on the puck. I can’t say enough good things about them."
Boston forward Milan Lucic didn’t have good things to say in the handshake line, reportedly telling Weise he was going to kill him next season. But the Canadiens can laugh about that now. They won four of six games at TD Garden this season and they’ll be playing this weekend. Lucic and the Bruins won’t.
The Montreal mystique is back.
GAME OF THE DAY
Montreal 3, Boston 1: The Presidents’ Trophy winner is dead. Canada’s last hope to end its 21-year Cup drought lives on. Montreal is officially destiny’s darling — until another team proves otherwise.
PLAY OF THE DAY
Kyle Palmieri’s wraparound: It’s not often that a wraparound attempt succeeds. It happens even less when the goalie is L.A.’s Jonathan Quick. But the Ducks forward had a full head of steam as he approached Quick and he used the net as an axis to whip his stick around its frame and tuck the puck in the far side just before Quick’s right pad arrived to cut the Kings’ lead to 2-1with little more than four minutes to play in the second period.
1. Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles: It seems almost impossible that Quick faced just 22 Anaheim shots in this game. Maybe that’s because the last few minutes were played almost exclusively in L.A.’s end. Quick came up with beauties, though, including a how-did-he-see-that glove save on Cam Fowler’s low drive through rush-hour traffic.
2. Carey Price, G, Montreal: The Canadiens did a great job of protecting the net, but Price still made 29 saves to backstop Montreal into the Eastern Conference final.
3. Danny Briere, C, Montreal: Briere made the most of his 8:06 of ice time with a goal and a pinpoint assist to Weise to add to his remarkable playoff resume. Briere has 115 points in 118 career playoff games.
Montreal 3, Boston 1
Series: Montreal wins, 4-3
Key stat: Montreal has won 25 of 34 playoff series with Boston.
Key player: P.K. Subban, D, Montreal. He didn’t have a point, but he was part of a poised Montreal defensive effort, logging a game-high 26:17 of ice time. Oh yeah, he was pretty poised in that post-game interview with Maguire, too, sending nothing but compliments and courtesy in Lucic’s direction — which was more than Lucic reportedly offered in the post-game handshake line. Oh, and about that kiss:
What we learned: All that depth, defensive prowess and world-class goaltending meant little for Boston when it ran into an age-old nemesis. Familiarity may breed contempt, but it also fosters an understanding of how and what is needed to beat a rival. The Canadiens were quicker than Boston through much of this series and that has long been an Achilles heel for these Bruins, who were beaten by Chicago last year in the Stanley Cup Final, in part, because of that same speed deficiency. Boston was bigger, Boston was stronger and Boston threw everything it had at Price, but the Bruins got very little production from mainstays Patrice Bergeron (pointless and minus-3 in the last four games), David Krejci and Brad Marchand (no goals all postseason — for either guy).
Boston still has a great core and some young parts that will improve. Minor tweaks are all that is needed at this point for a team that will remain a contender next season. But that Tyler Seguin trade isn’t looking quite as wise now and that improbable 2011 Cup is looking more and more distant. Pity forward Jarome Iginla, who will enter unrestricted free agency on the day he turns 37 and may never taste a title. As for these Canadiens, who knows what they can accomplish now. They have donned Cinderella’s slipper as they carry the hopes of an entire nation on their smaller, but willing shoulders.
Next game: Eastern Conference final Game 1: New York at Montreal, Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
Los Angeles 2, Anaheim 1
Series: Tied, 3-3
Key stat: The Kings are 7-1 in elimination games over the past two seasons.
Key player: Jake Muzzin, D, Los Angeles. Muzzin had a goal, five hits, two blocks and 25:01 in ice time, playing the perfect complement to Drew Doughty on the Kings’ top defensive pairing.
What we learned: The SoCal series has lived up to the hype. If you missed the final few minutes of Game 6, you are poorer for it. If there has been a more frenetic finish to a game this postseason, we haven’t seen it. Somehow, Anaheim never netted the equalizer so we will have Game 7 — which is as it should be. Los Angeles was tight defensively, as it normally is when its back is up against the wall. Doughty, Muzzin, Slava Voynov and Jeff Schultz were all brilliant in their own end, as was Quick when he was tested. But the secret to L.A.’s success is when it establishes that withering forecheck that pins teams in their own end and wears down a defense. Muzzin and Trevor Lewis staked L.A. to a 2-0 lead, making certain Anaheim goalie John Gibson would not become the first rookie goalie to win his first three playoff starts since Cam Ward did it for Carolina in 2006. Palmieri got one back on the aforementioned brilliant rush, but Anaheim squandered five power-play opportunities, marking the first time since Game 1 that the Ducks failed to score a power play goal.
Next game: Game 7, Friday at Anaheim, 9 p.m. ET
Final thought: New blood will flow in the Eastern Conference final when Montreal meets New York. Both teams eliminated a 2013 conference finalist (Boston and Pittsburgh, respectively) to get here, but neither team is a stranger to this spot in the playoffs. New York lost to New Jersey in its last conference finals appearance in 2012; Montreal lost to Philadelphia in its last conference finals appearance in 2010. The Rangers haven’t advanced to the Cup Final since winning it all in 1994; Montreal hasn’t been there since winning it all the season before (’93). In the West, Chicago has already booked a return trip to the final four, while Anaheim is trying to prevent Los Angeles from a return engagement with one last Game 7 treat this round.