On a hectic final day of the 2014-15 regular season, with several teams relying on particular results from other games to know where they would be positioned in the final standings, Montreal's seeding was relatively straightforward: get a point and claim the second seed in the Eastern Conference as the Atlantic Division champion.
It wasn't as easy at it should have been against a team that put on one of the worst statistical performances in NHL history, but, ultimately, the team got the job done and wrapped up the 82-game audition in good position for playoff success.
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That result was put into question early in the game when Phil Kessel caught Carey Price looking behind the net over his wrong shoulder, scoring his 25th goal of the year on a partial wraparound from behind the net. David Desharnais took advantage of a misplay between Jonathan Bernier and Nazem Kadri just seconds later, receiving the giveaway in the slot and shooting it by the scrambling Leafs goaltender.
The deadlock would not last for the remainder of the period, as Casey Bailey performed the very rare feat of scoring a first NHL goal against the Canadiens, on a skilful deflection of a Dion Phaneuf shot. Peter Holland kindly asked Carey Price to move out of his crease so he could retrieve the puck for his teammate. I imagine his comment was a meek "pardon my unworthy presence, Your Majesty," or something equally fitting a person of Price's stature.
Tomas Plekanec one-upped Kessel with his 26th goal of the year less than a minute into the second at the end of a nice passing play between Devante Smith-Pelly and Andrei Markov in the Leafs zone. The goal gave the longtime Habs forward an even 60 points on the year, while Markov registered his 40th assist to go with his 10 goals.
The Maple Leafs took their third lead of the game later in the period, benefiting from the lax defensive zone coverage that plagued the Canadiens all game long. Tyler Bozak was allowed to cruise uncontested to the front of the net, one-timing a James van Riemsdyk pass past the glove of Price from just a few feet out.
Montreal looked fairly uninterested in tying things up for a third time, but another difficult puck transition from Bernier behind his own net resulted in a giveaway by Jake Gardiner. Jacob de la Rose's forecheck had him in perfect position to score his fourth goal on a simple tap-in.
No scoring occurred in the third, despite a few powerplays distributed to each team, and the sounding of the horn at the end of the period heralded Montreal's division victory.
The game headed to a meaningless overtime, where things got a little silly.
P.K. Subban was called for high-sticking early in the five-minute added time period, much to the delight of the commentators of the nationally broadcast Hockey Night in Canada programme. It was Lars Eller who had the best chance with Subban in the box, being closely chased by three Leafs players as he went on a partial shorthanded breakaway, but was unable to end the Leafs season on the play.
As the game returned to even strength, it was Eller once again who controlled the play in the offensive zone, being undeterred by a few instances of illegal stick contact around the Leafs net as he handled the puck for several seconds. A few members of the Canadiens were unhappy that the officials had become unwilling to call any further penalties, so they responded to the criticism, ejecting both Markov and P.A. Parenteau from the game for their critiques.
Subban was called for his second penalty of the overtime period soon afterward, but only four seconds remained on the clock and the powerplay ended before the Leafs could take advantage.
The game was ultimately decided with the teams participating in one final shootout before the format switches to 20-minute sudden death overtime to decide outcomes going forward.
The Leafs opted for Montreal to shoot first, so Alex Galchenyuk gave them a show with some mesmerizing dekes to get Benier out of position before shooting the puck over the defeated goaltender to put the Canadiens up a goal to start things off.
Bozak missed the net on the Leafs first shot, much to the disappointment of the commentators of the nationally broadcast Hockey Night in Canada programme, so Desharnais hopped over the boards to try to extend the lead to two. Once inside the the offensive zone Desharnais faked a slapshot from the high slot and then completely fooled Bernier when he turned that fake slapshot into a real slapshot that zipped by the frozen goalie into the top corner.
The last hope for the Leafs got his chance as Joffrey Lupul, in what I'm fairly certain was the first mention of his name all night, took the ice for his turn. His shot was easily turned aside by Price, who extended his Canadiens wins record to 44 games.
Now you can forget about what happened over the last 82 games as the season resets with the 16 teams who made it out of the pre-playoff trial all starting on equal footing.
Montreal will begin their second season at home versus your least-wanted first round opponent: the Ottawa Senators. Be sure to stay with Eyes on the Prize as we deliver all the Montreal Canadiens information you need throughout the Stanley Cup playoff run.