When Matt Fraser banged in an overtime rebound to win Game 4 of the 2014 Atlantic Division Final, the play was widely regarded as a pivotal turning point. The goal gave the Bruins a win in a game in which Montreal had been the stronger team, marking the second time in the series that Boston had won by snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. It gave the Bruins new life, and restored their home-ice advantage in a Best of Three series.
This turn of events was disappointing to a Canadiens fanbase energized by a series lead, and more so because of sequence than circumstance. After the game, there was much conversation acknowledging that a 2-2 series after four games meant that the Habs were doing well. However, when a different outcome in that Game 4 overtime would have so changed the complexion of the series, it left Habs Nation longing for what could have been. A 3-1 Montreal lead would have required Boston to win three consecutive games against a team enjoying the inspired play of the league's hottest goaltender, a feat many considered impossible. Tonight, the Habs will have to prove that losing three in a row to the Bruins is truly the insurmountable task it seemed just days ago.
At the time that the CBC was last heard making pronouncements of the Habs' impenetrability, the foremost narrative in the series was that of an unbeatable Carey Price smothering the frustrated Bruins. While C3P1 was been nothing short of outstanding in this series, the pane of glass positioned on his goal line has now been shattered by a four goal Boston effort in Game 5. For the second time in the series, the Habs were forced to play from behind, and when they couldn't respond immediately, they couldn't respond at all.
Regardless of which players Michel Therrien chooses to dress tonight, or how he allots his ice time, it is undeniable that the Habs are a fast, aggressive, competent team that is more than capable of pushing this series to seven games and even continuing their playoff run beyond. The Canadiens' rivals' fundamental skill, not to mention their possession of the President's Trophy, should have been a clear indication to all that the bounces weren't going to favour the Habs forever. The powerplay came alive for the Bruins in Game 5, and Tuukka Rask stopped some of the same attempts that were goals earlier in the series.
The Canadiens found holes with their stretch passes, as they have all series long, but David Desharnais, as one example, wasn't able to capitalize as his teammates did before him. Max Pacioretty, who should again see a more favourable matchup as Therrien wields last change, still hasn't converted one of his patented, once-daily high slot one-timers. P.K. Subban, for all of his magical performances in this series, was largely held in check on Saturday, until he was left to ransack the Bruins' prevent defence as time wound down. Tomas Plekanec, the object of consistency and stability on this Habs' team, had his worst game of the series.
Montreal has had their chances to put Boston away, but when the Bruins confronted the Canadiens' failure to take control of this series, the Habs imploded. It's time for the Canadiens to own those missed opportunities, and to show their strength as the team that had the Bruins on their heels just days ago. Tonight, back at the Bell Centre and with their season on the line, they'll have one more chance to show they're capable of doing just that.