It's Saturday, March 8 and the Montreal Canadiens are in San Jose to visit the Shark Tank. Coach Michel Therrien pep talks the boys and runs thorugh the Sharks' scorers and compares them to the very good numbers by Canadiens' scorers, "Nothing to be ashamed at."
Puck drop though, and two and a half minutes later, the Sharks open the scoring on an unlucky one for Peter Budaj. On the bench, Thomas Vanek discusses game plan with Alex Galchenyuk and Tomas Plekanec. Less than two minutes into the second, the Sharks put another one in and Therrien makes the quick decision to pull Budaj out of the net, and put in backup Dustin Tokarski. The night doesn't improve though with another Sharks goal a few minutes later. At the second intermission, the mood in the room is glum, and Gerard Gallant comes into the room to try to talk the boys into getting their groove back. "We wanna be a good team ... we're a good team." And ... 43 seconds into the third. the Sharks bite again and the final score is 4-0. ZERO. Can't win 'em all. The Habs head back home.
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March 11. The Habs are back at home, and now, post-trade-deadline, we have finalized the Canadiens' roster and it's time for the 2013-2014 team portrait. After the official team photo shoot, the Habs' families come in and pose with the team, and we see everyone's adorable children. Alex Galchenyuk and P.K. Subban, currently still kid-less, embrace and hang their tongues out for the picture.
Later, there is a training session at the Bell Centre, Thomas Vanek's first. As usual, Brandon Prust play fights with Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. Everyone's so used to it, no one even watches.
March 12 and it's snowing in Montreal. The Canadiens' foundation has its annual telethon, and Chantal Machabée of RDS explains to 24CH that the foundation raises funds for children in need. We see some familiar faces manning phones at the telethon, including Mathieu Darche and Réjean Houle. Also at the telethon is one of my best friends whom I met last October, Guy Lafleur. He has a lot of fun smiling and joking with Machabée, smiling nearly as big as in the photo I got with him.
Later, it's game night, and guess who's in town? The Boston Bruins. It's Vanek's first game in the Bell Centre, and Budaj is in nets. Since Josh Gorges is injured and not playing, Subban leads the, "all right, here we go boys, everybody come on!" rally leaving the dressing room for the ice, to a few laughs but not, of course, from uber-serious Andrei Markov.
During play, Alexei Emelin takes a hit to the boards that the audio helpfully provides ear-ringing effect to. Emelin continues play and despite a near-goal by Max Pacioretty, the period ends scoreless for both teams. At intermission, Vanek discusses goalie observations with rapt linemate Pacioretty.
In the second, the Bruins open the scoring on Budaj, and then score again to make it 2-0, for the bad guys. Prust engages in a fight with Miller but doesn't succeed in firing up the Habs, who go into the second intermission with a 3-0 deficit after the Bruins score again. In the third, the devil's agent Zdeno Chara scores again for the Bruins, but David Desharnais avoids complete Habs humiliation by finally scoring for the good guys. 4-1, final.
Next, the 24CH cameras visit the Czech Republic, birthplace of Tomas Plekanec, in much the same was as they did in the previous episode in Denmark to profile Lars Eller 's hockey beginnings. Plekanec's friend Martin Vejvoda tells us that Tomas doesn't say much, but when he does, it's usually funny ... which we've witnessed this 24CH season by his infrequent but humorous anecdotes. We're walked through his childhood and treated to photographs that show that basically he looks exactly the same now, but taller, and with facial hair. We also meet his former coach, who finally enlightens us all on how to say his name ... it's not PLEKanich or PleKANich, it's PlekanETZ. OK, everybody in the world? Plekanec, like Eller, is regarded as a hero in Czech Republic, and there is great pride in having him named as the captain of the Czech Olympic team. He has enormous respect, having played "adult hockey" as a 16-year-old. Martin Rucinsky also offers words of admiration for his countryman; everyone has a high regard for what he has accomplished in his career.
Back in Brossard, Carey Price is practicing with the team, and the rest of the boys, namely Prust and Subban, are having fun kidding around on the ice, with Gallagher joining in trying to yank P.K.'s stick away from him.
It's game night in Montreal, and our beloved Carey Price is finally dressing to take his place between the pipes in the game against the Ottawa Senators, for his first game back since winning Olympic gold for Canada. The Senators are new hated rivals for us since the 2013 playoffs, and before the game, Prust reminds his teammates, "it's the biggest game of the year, right f**king now."
Puck drop. 38 seconds in, Daniel Briere opens the scoring, and Ottawa ties it quickly. In the second, Ottawa has a goal called off but manages to score again to make it 2-1. In the third, all seems to slip away and be lost as the Sens score and then and score again, to make the score 4-1. Tempers are flaring and Prust gets into a fight with Michalek, again trying to wake his team up. He gets a fighting major and leaves the ice. After he leaves, scrums continue, with pissed-off Habs venting frustrations. Travis Moen and Dale Weise are both sent off as well, and, "somewhere, a fat lady sings."
And then. With just 3:22 left to go in the game, Lars Eller puts one in the net but no one, including him, cares to celebrate as we're still down by two goals. And then guess what - about a minute later, captain Brian Gionta gets another goal to bring the Habs within one. Things just got infinitely more interesting. More so a few seconds later, with less than two minutes left in the game, when Ottawa takes a foolish hooking penalty. On the power play, Therrien makes a bold move by pulling Carey Price from the net. The wave begins in the Bell Centre - by those who are still left, as many have departed the building since the 4-1 score with roughly four minutes to go.
Frantic play in the final minute of the period takes place, with perennial hero David Desharnais finally finding the back of the Ottawa net with less than a second left to play. A review concludes what the replay has already shown the Bell Centre, and that's a good goal to tie the game that was all but lost just minutes earlier. My neighbours can also tell you that it was a good goal - walls here are paper-thin. Tie game! Tie game! After being down by three goals with 3:22 to go!
In the dressing room, Prust can't believe it, as he rushes around in stages of undress just to have to suit up again for the moment he's allowed back on the ice after serving the appropriate amount of time for his major. He's raring to go out, and is held back, being informed that he has to wait a minute and a half into overtime. He doesn't get a chance to, however, as the Habs dominate the overtime and Francis Bouillon scores the winner for a historic finish - never been done with such a deficit with so little time - the Habs win 5-4 and the Bell Centre explodes. Heading back into the dressing room, Bouillon is assaulted in the gauntlet of teammates congratulating him on the winner.
Closing scene is Therrien's presser, where he states that this kind of win at this time of the season can mark a turning point, now officially filed under "understatements of the millennium thus far".