TAMPA – The Canadiens stole home ice advantage back from the Lightning in dramatic fashion on Wednesday night.
Entering Game 1 as the “underdog” road team after finishing one point back of the Bolts with 100 points on the season, the Habs leaned heavily on their advantage in the experience department in their first win of the series. From responding to Tampa’s opening goal 19 seconds after it had happened on Tomas Plekanec’s first of the postseason to tying it up again off a Brian Gionta shorthanded marker in the second period, the Canadiens overcame plenty of adversity to win their first playoff game of 2014.
“It’s not an easy thing, the rollercoaster of emotion you’re going to feel in playoff games,” admitted Daniel Briere, the most experienced playoff veteran on either roster with 109 career NHL postseason games under his belt. “That’s part of the experience factor, knowing to stay composed and stay focused, even when you miss chances or make bad mistakes that result in a goal or a bad chance against. I thought we did a really good job of staying composed and staying within our limits. We made them work for everything and that was a good sign.”
As advertised, Briere took his game up a notch in the NHL’s second season, showcasing some of the clutch postseason play that’s been the hallmark of his career since his NHL Playoff debut 14 years ago. Finishing with a plus-1 differential in his 18:48 workload, the veteran winger was buzzing all night, before setting the table for Dale Weise’s overtime winner.
“I had a feeling something good was going to happen. Our line had too many scoring chances – at some point we knew we were going to get a good result,” shared Briere, who is sixth among all active NHLers in playoff points per game with 110 in 109 games played. “One thing that was really impressive – and I don’t think he got the assist on the goal – was the work of Michael Bournival. He had two guys on his back and he stayed on the puck before getting it to me and that’s how the play started. When I got the puck behind the net, I noticed Dale wide open in the crease. When I saw him alone there I couldn’t believe it. It was a great feeling to see him score.”
One of Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin’s three midseason acquisitions, Weise arrived in Montreal promising to provide an extra gear to the lineup, adding speed, grit and an underrated offensive touch down the stretch. He may be better known for his work in the corners than his overtime-winning snipes, but Briere wasn’t surprised to see Weise come up big when given an opportunity.
“I’ve seen him shoot in practice and he’s got one of the hardest shots,” shared Briere of his linemate, who earned the nickname “Dutch Gretzky” during his time lighting it up overseas during the lockout. “I just saw the replay and it went through the goalie, so it had to be a hard shot.”
Despite boasting a healthy playoff pedigree from his days in Junior, Weise had yet to crack the goose egg on his NHL postseason stat sheet prior to Wednesday’s game. For the 25-year-old forward, notching his first career NHL playoff point off an overtime-winning goal was worth the wait.
“I can’t remember the last time I had an overtime goal, so that one feels pretty good,” admitted Weise with a laugh. “We had about two or three similar chances the shifts before that and on the last shift I had kind of backed off on the play because to didn’t want to get caught. I came to the bench and Turk [Gerard Gallant] told me to not be afraid to jump in.
“Bourny and Danny made a great play, and I won’t miss too many from there,” he added. “It’s a good feeling. It’s nice to contribute. Maybe in the second and third, our line didn’t get as much going as we would’ve liked but to go out in overtime and have some good shifts and contribute feels great. We’re going to need some depth scoring here to continue to win games. I don’t know if we expected it to be 5-4, but that’s playoffs. Anything can happen.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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