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The Montreal Canadiens pulled off a huge series upset, defeating the Boston Bruins 3-1 to win game seven and continue their playoff run into the Eastern Conference final. This game seven represents the ninth time the two teams have met in the playoffs, a record for all pro sports in North America. The win represents the sixth time the Habs have been victorious against their arch-rival from Boston in a game seven.

The Habs went into Wednesday’s game in Boston looking to avenge their Game 7 loss from 2011 and move on to the third round against the Rangers.  While there were some nervous moments at the end as the Bruins put on a furious attempt to tie it, Montreal was able to hold on for a 3-1 victory, sending the Presidents’ Cup Trophy winners home in the process.

This team continued their fine play from their game 6 defeat of Boston, two nights earlier. The Habs defence continued to block an incredible number of shots, while Montreal forwards were always supporting them deep in their own zone to pick up errant pucks or be ready for a clearing pass to relieve the pressure. For most of the evening, any shots that did get through Carey Price could see them and stopped all but one, looking confident with every play. In the offensive zone the Habs were aggressive on the forecheck, utilizing their speed to eliminate time and space for the Bruins defence, causing them frustration and occaional turnovers, to stimie their offence from getting started.

Neither team made any lineup changes for the game.  For the Habs, this meant that Daniel Briere stayed on the fourth line and it didn’t take long for him to make a difference.  In fact, he lived up to his big game reputation on his very first shift as he took a Brandon Prust feed and fired a perfect pass to Dale Weise who tapped it by Tuukka Rask just past the two minute mark of the game to open the scoring.  The Habs had several early chances and some early powerplays but were unable to get a second one by the end of the period.  Boston picked up their effort towards the end of the frame, giving them some momentum for the second.

In the middle frame, the Bruins came out with lots of pressure, putting the Canadiens back on their heels.  Carey Price was sharp and held them at bay.  Just past the halfway point, the Habs took advantage of a Boston icing.  The Bruins were sluggish off the draw and failed on multiple attempts to clear the puck.  David Desharnais secured possession and snapped a quick pass over to Max Pacioretty who one-timed it past Rask to double the Habs’ lead.  The goal marked the first time in Pacioretty’s career that he scored in back-to-back playoff games and extended his point streak to three.

Unfortunately for the Canadiens, things didn’t go well for the rest of the period.  A pair of offensive zone penalties got the crowd back into it and gave the Bruins some energy.  While they were unsuccessful on their first chance, they made no mistake on their second opportunity.  This time it was the Canadiens who failed on numerous chances to clear the zone and it came back to haunt them as Jarome Iginla redirected a Torey Krug shot past Price to cut their deficit in half.

The Habs had a carryover powerplay into the final period but were unable to generate any chances.  Not surprisingly, Boston saved their best effort for last as they were all over Montreal afterwards.  The defence was aggressive and took away the Bruins’ primary looks which was enough to hold them at bay.  With under five minutes to play, Johnny Boychuk took an interference penalty on Michael Bournival.  With that man advantage, Briere struck again…sort of.  He tried to get a shot off and bounced it off Zdeno Chara’s skate past Rask to make it 3-1.  That didn’t put an end to the nervous moments, however, as Andrei Markov took an interference penalty with two minutes left, creating a 6-on-4 situation for the rest of the game.  Boston was unable to score and the Habs are moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Price made 29 saves for the victory while Rask, who looked shaky all night, turned aside just 15 of Montreal’s 18 shots.  Both teams were successful with the man advantage with the Canadiens going 1/5 and the Bruins 1/3.

The Habs appear to be on a magic carpet ride, with the team gelling beautifully and chemistry perfectly balanced. The most interesting stat to report on the team is a 17-6-1 record since March 15th, the night they staged their incredible come from behind win against Ottawa.

HW 3 Stars of the Night

1st Star – Carey Price

Price was clutch, stopping all but one significant chances from Boston, remaining characterically cool all the while. The belief going into the game was that Price was going to need to have his best outing of the series and he more or less did just that.  He didn’t have to make too many spectacular saves but the ones he made stopped Boston’s momentum and allowed the Habs to battle back.  He was by far the better of the two goalies when it mattered most.

2nd Star – Daniel Briere

He didn’t play much (what else is new?) but Briere lived up to his reputation as a clutch playoff performer.  He set up the first goal and got credit for the 3-1 tally that gave the Canadiens some much needed breathing room.  This was the third straight Game 7 where he collected a goal and an assist.

3rd Star – Max Pacioretty

Max continued his hot hand, with 4 points in the last two games, scoring the eventual game winner. He was an ever present threat offensively, using his size, speed and strength to his advantage.