As the players prepare to depart on a brief road trip, we see P.K Subban get on the phone to the father of a young fan who got hit by one of his pucks after one of his snipes at the net in the March 15 emotional win against the Ottawa Senators. They re-show the tape as a regretful Subban looks towards the stands and shakes his head after seeing the little boy carried out of the arena.
"C'est P.K. Subban."
I'm imagining this man's reaction at hearing that, needing it to be repeated as P.K. affirms, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm just calling about your son, Tomas. I know last game it was a close call in the stands there, and I was just calling to apologize, I feel really badly about it ... no, I have to apologize, and I'd like to take it one step further and have yourself and a your son at a game soon and be able to meet Tomas after a game to shake his hand, and give him a big hug, if I can. No, no problem, you've made my day." How about you - could you survive after receiving that call, having that conversation? When he hangs up, P.K. smiles and says, "That's awesome."
March 22, and the Habs are in Toronto, practicing for their game against the Maple Leafs. Coach Michel Therrien addresses them in the dressing room, showing them video of what not to do when you lose your "steel" in a game, with Brendan Gallagher crazily trying to hop on the ice during play after losing a skate blade during the game against Columbus. The room and Therrien laughs, because it's funny, and Therrien says, "Hey, Gally, next time, come to the bench. All right?"
Just before the game, Therrien advises the boys to frustrate the Maple Leafs with their intensity, because, "That team can play really, really undisciplined," and finishes with, "Most important thing, play the right way, we're gonna have a chance to win. Simple."
Game on, and Max Pacioretty and Rene Bourque score to create a two-goal lead on the Leafs; five minutes later Joffrey Lupul scores on Carey Price to close the gap to one goal and as the period nears its close, Tyler Bozak scores to tie for the Leafs. Even closer to the period's close, however, our captain, Brian Gionta, scores to take the lead, too, to take the game into intermission, and tell me quickly how many commas in this sentence.
Took too long. At first intermission, Therrien tells the group what they already know, and that's that they won "the first battle", and they'd sure as you-know-what better win the second. The second ends with building frustration but no further goals, with the score remaining at 3-2, Habs.
In the third, Toronto's number forty-something quickly scores a power play goal to tie the game. Waiting a dramatic five minutes, Tomas Plekanec scores to take the lead, from an awkward and unlikely angle to the side of the net. The Habs hold the Leafs off for the rest of the period to win in regulation on hostile territory. At this stage of the season, this is no small victory.
Afterwards in the dressing room, Price struggles with an iPod speaker, trying to play victory music, then decides to throw it in the garbage. What looks to me like a group of guys realizing what just happened at such a crucial time, sitting around the dressing room in relief, just wants to share this moment together as they'll probably remember it for a long time; deciding to kick the camera out as their captain throws his jersey on it, blacking the scene out.
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Next up for the Habs on their road trip is a visit to their friends the Bruins. Another opportunity for a character win for les boys, as the Bruins are currently enjoying a 12-game winning streak. Therrien puts a positive spin on their chances by highlighting to the group that it's actually a great time to play this Bruins team, who have got to be tired after a long road trip. It would seem Therrien's hockey know-how is telling him that this tired team is so beatable that he puts backup goalie Peter Budaj in nets for the Habs.
The game kicks off in high gear with Alexei Emelin delivering a huge (clean) hip check to hulking Milan Lucic, which devil's earth agent Zdeno Chara takes exception to, and foolishly and irresponsibly gets a penalty by roughing Emelin. A few minutes later, Dale Weise gets injured by getting cross-checked into the boards by Bruins 82, to which Travis Moen objects by getting into a huge fight with 82. I know his name is Miller but he can't even spell his first name right. Both Moen and Miller get fighting majors, and Moen needs to be helped off the ice. In the ensuing power play, it's Emelin who deliciously opens the scoring on enemy ice.
In the second, there is no scoring as Budaj plays a solid 20. Tensions continue to mount, with Boychuk stupidly roughing P.K. Subban, after P.K. shoves him when Boychuk targeted P.K.'s knees flying into the boards. All the stupids on this team, man. It's hard to comprehend. There are a lot of things to like in this episode but what happens next is definitely in my top three: at second intermission, the team is filing off the ice and down the hallway to their dressing room. The camera is on P.K., walking the fan gauntlet jeering and shouting at him. P.K. just keeps walking, looks back for a second, then he sees the camera and develops this slow grin that ends in a laugh as he turns into the dressing room. When I saw this, I literally spun onto my back on the couch, kicked my legs and cackled. P.K. loves every minute of it.
Five minutes into the third, the previously red-hot Bruins finally find a way to solve Peter Budaj. This is when that prince of a gent, Lucic, finally finds his sneaky way to get back at Emelin, spearing him in the nuts from behind. Emelin goes down and skates bent over back to the bench. Assistant coach Gerard Gallant is incensed and shouts at referee Kyle Rehman to ask his linesmen about the two-hander on Emelin. Concerned linesman Tony Sericolo skates past the bench to make sure they know he cares, and asks, "Anybody see that two-hander on Emelin?" to which Brendan Gallagher replies, "You saw it!!"
There are no more goals in this game and it goes to overtime. Five minutes solve nothing and a shootout is required. Budaj stops all the Boston shooters, and then Alex Galchenyuk puts a beauty past Rask to win the game. We did it. Streak busters. With a backup goalie. On the bad guys' turf. Another victory that is not small, to say the least.
Up next, the Habs are back in Montreal preparing to meet the Buffalo Sabres at the Bell Centre. This is the night where the little boy who got hit by P.K. Subban's puck is invited to the game with his family. Young Tomas Huard describes how the puck first got his dad then hit him in the ear. His dad, Denis, laughs when he remembers that P.K. called him personally just to make sure his son was all right.
Puck drop, and Denis and Tomas watch from the stands. The first ends without a goal by either side. In the second, the hits abound but there is still no score.
In the third, the Desvanetty line produces and Max Pacioretty finally puts one into the net, and Daniel Briere puts one in, too. The heated game ends in a 2-0 win for the Habs, and as the final buzzer sounds, Andrei Markov gets jumped right in front of Carey Price, so Carey gets right into the pileup in defence of his teammate. Later, Price explains that he just wanted to get the guy off Markov, but he couldn't grab him with his gloves on, so that's why he threw his gloves. How about: next time just skate away, Pricer, that was awesome and everything but next time, don't.
After the game, a cleaned-up and impeccably dressed P.K. Subban meets little Tomas Huard, shaking his hand and presenting Tomas with the actual puck that hit him, and autographs it right then and there. And he says, "You can say, my first game, P.K. hit me with a slap shot and I survived, so that's a pretty big deal!" He further talks to an absolutely delighted and grateful Denis, who is the only one who speaks English. It's for moments like these that I believe Molson is investing in French classes for the guys, because the only thing that would have made this cooler is if Tomas actually understood what P.K. was saying to him. Well, now he has it on film, and in 20 years he can say, multiple Stanley Cup champ P.K. Subban shook this hand and signed this puck!
Continuing in the vein of far-away trips to become familiar with Canadiens' players' roots, we next visit Bromma, Stockholm, where Douglas Murray grew up. It looks like a privileged upbringing. He played hockey as a child and his father describes how Murray wasn't a star, but he worked hard. Murray himself emphasizes this by saying he was instructed to work hard on the ice, otherwise it wasn't fair to his team. We meet Murray's grandfather, who talks about watching Murray play with his brothers, and his grandfather had a huge influence on his hard-hitting style. Murray had a couple of years with the Swedish national team before heading to the U.S. to play when he was 17. His mom was tearful when she was informed that he had gotten quite a lot of interest from U.S. universities and would not be returning to Sweden for a long time. Then, we meet Murray's buddy in Sweden, Anders Timell, who describes partying with Murray and how Murray does everything with a smile. Timell tells us how much Murray loves french fries, and holds up like five pounds of butter and says that this is what Murray eats in the summer. We're treated to a lot of cute family pictures and what is obviously a lot of affection for Murray by his family and Timell.
March 27, and the Canadiens are in Detroit to face Mike Babcock's Red Wings again. What strikes me as the boys are getting dressed is that Ryan White puts on his skate barefoot. I'm glad my son didn't see that as I'm always telling him to put socks on before his shoes. White's skate must smell pretty ripe.
The game opens with Price in nets and two goals by Tomas Plekanec, one short-handed. In the second, Detroit quickly puts one past Price to close the gap, but Desvanetty strikes again with an insurance goal by David Desharnais. In the third, the Wings respond quickly again by scoring and scoring again - we're now tied at 3-3. Then Desvanetty does its thing again, with Pacioretty scoring to lead again, and Thomas Vanek putting one in himself - 5-3! Detroit makes things interesting by scoring once more, but that's as close as they would get. Habs win 5-4 and the boys celebrate in the dressing room and get ready to hit the road again for balmy Florida. It is fun being a Canadien and a Canadiens' fan again, wouldn't you say?
P.S. I hope "Desvanetty" catches on.