Finally, a chance to exhale. After four games, two of which went to overtime, a 2-2 split, and the emergence of P.K. Subban as lightning rod, the Bruins erupted for three goals in the first 22 minutes of Game 5 en route to a 4-2 series-changing victory over the hated Montreal Canadiens Saturday at the Garden.
Hockey Night In Canada was Party Night in Boston. We at long last saw the heavy-hitting Bruins who dominated the NHL over the final two months of the regular season.
“We seemed more in control,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “We focused over the whole 60 minutes. It was a great effort on our part.’’
Once again, Monsieur Subban was in the middle of everything. Even in a 4-2 defeat. Subban scored the final goal of the night, a too-little-too-late howitzer on a six-on-four, but he was also the target of some water bottle/squirt gun hijinks from Shawn Thornton — activity guaranteed to further inflame this already combustible series.
Subban took the high road, but said, “That’s not something I would do.’’
Julien said, “I didn’t see that. I certainly don’t support that.’’
“Yeah, we saw that,’’ said Montreal coach Michel Therrien. “I don’t want to comment on that.’’
Thornton was unavailable to the media, but his teammates and coach cannot be happy.
The decisive Bruins’ victory was played on the 44th anniversary of the Bobby Orr Mother’s Day Goal — a moment preserved in bronze on a spot between Causeway Street and the west entrance to the New Garden. May 10 also marked the date of the infamous Too-Many-Men-On-The-Ice penalty at the Forum in 1979, but Saturday’s game was sheer Black-and-Gold celebration, a reminder that the Bruins of 2013-14 need not fear the ghosts of past failures against the Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge.
The tone was set with 5:14 left in the first period when fans watched the big videoboard over the ice and saw a replay of Orr’s give-and-go with Derek Sanderson. Seconds after seeing the Cup-clinching goal for the one millionth time, the large screen featured a live shot of Orr and Sanderson waving to the crowd from a luxury box.
Bedlam. The Gallery Gods saluted the ice gods of 1970 and North Station rattled to its rails down below.
Scoring the first goal has been a key to victory in this series, so it was no small matter when Bruins third-line center Carl Soderberg took a backhand pass from Loui Eriksson and banged a one-timer past Carey Price in the 13th minute of play. Matt Bartkowski also was credited with an assist and we have since learned that David Ortiz is petitioning the NHL for an additional assist on the play. It was Soderberg’s first playoff goal.
The Bruins blew it open with a pair of scores at the start of the second. Reilly Smith made it 2-0 with a redirection of a slot pass from Dougie Hamilton (Pierre McGuire’s new favorite). Jarome Iginla, captain of the Missing Persons Line, scored 32 seconds later (tremendous no-look pass from Torey Krug) and it was time to start thinking about Game 6 Monday night at the Bell Centre.
The back-to-back power-play goals unleashed five years of frustration for the Bruins against the Habs. Prior to Saturday, the Bruins had not scored a power-play goal against Montreal since April of 2009, a stretch covering 37 power plays. The drought reached 39 before Smith’s redirect.
“Our power play was due,’’ said Julien.
The Bruins and their fans had some fun with the three-goal lead. Milan Lucic flexed his muscles in the face of Subban, and zealots in black-and-gold sweaters taunted Therrien from the first row behind the glass.
The Habs did not turtle. Quote machine Brendan Gallagher, planted in front of the net, tipped home a Tomas Plekanec bomb on a power play to cut the margin to 3-1 with 5:21 left in the second. The goal broke a string of 96 shutout minutes by Tuukka Rask.
Period 3 fun, festive . . . and wet for Subban.
Fans went wild when new hero Matt Fraser — wearing Tony C’s No. 25 — fired a shot from the slot, and the building rocked with every hit on the Habs. Eriksson put it away on an easy shot from in front with 5:48 remaining. Fraser and Soderberg picked up the assists and Garden fans chanted, “Thank you, Seguin.’’
We saw some nifty six-on-four when Therrien pulled Price on a power play down the stretch and as soon as fans started chanting “Subban sucks!’’ the Montreal defenseman made it 4-2 with a cannon blast from out top. Pretty good for a guy who needed wipers for his helmet shield when he skated past the Bruins bench.
So now the Bruins go back to the province of Quebec to try to close things out vs. La Sainte-Flanelle. The spoked-B’s are finally playing like the team we saw during the 2013-14 season. They have won two straight and they look like they are wearing the Canadiens down. And we certainly hope they know it’s a mistake to leave things up to a seventh game in Boston Wednesday night.
“It’s basically a must-win game,’’ said Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk. “I don’t want to sugarcoat it, we have to be prepared for everything.’’
Including more wrath from outraged fans of the Canadiens.