With storm clouds blowing into Montreal minutes before game time, lightning striking and thunder rolling, you couldn't ask for a more ominous setting for the Montreal Canadiens while facing elimination. With the way the Canadiens played in the game, I imagine Michel Therrien's pregame speech was similar to President Thomas J. Whitmore's in Independence Day to his rag tag group of fighter pilots.
Before the game, I expected this to be Tampa Bay Lightning's best of the series. They were just embarrassed in their own barn, and had been outplayed at even strength every single game of this series. Tampa gave it their all, and despite trailing nearly the entire game, still only managed just a hair above 50% of possession.
While Steven Stamkos banging home a rebound after a series of fortunate bounces in favour of the Lightning and a great play by Anton Stralman drew the game at one all momentarily, the best effort the Bolts could muster still just wasn't enough with the Habs finally cashing on a few of their chances.
Midway through the first period Jeff Petry's aggression in the neutral zone, something the Canadiens have practiced against the Lightning very effectively in the series, paid dividends with a turnover, which he laid up to Torrey Mitchell. Devante Smith-Pelly joined Mitchell on the rush, and was give a pass as they crossed the offensive blueline. Smith-Pelly brought the puck to the edge of the scoring chance area, and wired a wrist shot over Ben Bishop's shoulder and off the back crossbar to open the scoring.
At first, Smith-Pelly didn't even realize the puck went in the net, until referee Steve Kozari pointed at the goal, the red light went on, and the Bell Centre erupted. It was the first goal of the playoffs for Smith-Pelly, and just his second as a Canadien. It was also the first playoff assist of Jeff Petry's career, and Torrey Mitchell's fifth point of the playoffs, tying him with Tom Gilbert for third on the Canadiens in points. Seriously.
The game winner came from an almost equally unlikely source, set up by perhaps the most likely one. When the moments get big, one thing you can count on with the Canadiens is for P.K. Subban to be even bigger. With a fake-out on Alex Killorn at the point, Subban deked around the Lightning winger along the wall and found a waiting P.A. Parenteau in the high slot, and he made no mistake with a quick snap shot that went crossbar and in behind Ben Bishop.
Parenteau had picked up his first assist of the playoffs the previous game, and has now put up back-to-back excellent performances, after a very slow start to the playoffs following a (presumably) minor injury in Game One against Ottawa, and a couple of healthy scratches.
The hand of god
What is there left to say about Carey Price? If a goalie could be summed up into a single save, Price diving to get the edge of his glove on an immaculate scoring chance from Valtteri Filppula would be the one to pick for him.
When Ken Dryden wrote about Carey Price on Tuesday, he mentioned that the Canadiens have to be good enough that Price only has to make the great saves, not the impossible ones. This game, they weren't quite that good, but Price made the impossible save. He saved the game, he saved the series, he saved their season. It was the one save during the game where Price wasn't quite able to make it look easy.
The story Price is writing for himself is one that before long, will see him take home a pickup truck full of trophies. What may be even more impressive than his raw performance though, is how often he has loomed large at the biggest of moments. Behind either the Canadiens or Team Canada, Price has faced elimination seven times in the last 15 months. In those games, he has a record of 7-0-0, has allowed just five goals against, and has a save percentage of .972, meaning that if you want to beat him even once, the odds are you'll need over 35 shots on goal.
There has been much consternation in Montreal about the slump Alex Galchenyuk finds himself in, and while he still hasn't scored in this series, he and Max Pacioretty both fired 10 shot attempts at Ben Bishop in Game Five, and Galchenyuk notched six shots on goal in Game Four.
This isn't a typical slump where the player isn't doing the right things, everything points to Galchenyuk breaking out offensively, and soon. Going into Game Five, Galchenyuk was tied with Lars Eller for the third most scoring chances at even strength on the team, it's coming.
While the Lightning have two more chances to eliminate the Canadiens, one of which will be on home ice on Tuesday, the Canadiens still have the flow of play on their side, a resurgent-looking powerplay, a multitude of stars due for goals, and Carey Price. As Pacioretty said; it doesn't feel over yet.