The 10 best games of 2011 (as viewed by me) – #5 – NHL Playoffs Round 1: Montreal Canadiens vrs. Boston Bruins, April 23, 2011

There is not a much more dramatic thing in sports than bitter rivals going at it in postseason play.  It’s even better when it goes into overtime.  In the first round, seven game playoff series in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs the Bruins and Canadiens went into overtime three times.  The second of the two overtime games went into double overtime.  What’s better than a double overtime playoff game between two historic rivals?

Price stopped nearly everything that came his way

It was Game 5 of the B’s and Habs first round series.  This was the 164th game that the Bruins and Canadiens had played each other in the postseason since they had their first playoff match up back in 1929.  The game was played at TD Garden in Boston.  The Bruins had lost the first two games of the series in Boston and then returned the favor in Games 3 and 4 when they defeated the Canadiens in Montreal.  Goalies Tim Thomas and Carey Price had both gone stretches where they were nearly impenetrable.  The first and second periods were two of the best that you had ever seen for two goalies in the same playoff game.  Thomas and Price matched each other shot for shot in the first two frames.  Thomas had 16 saves through the first two periods and Price already had 21.  Neither team’s offense could manage a goal against either guy.  We went into the 3rd period with the score tied at 0-0.

The Bruins started with a flurry of offense in the 3rd period but they were stonewalled by Price.  Price saved the first 6 shots of the period by the B’s, all by the 4:00 mark.  Finally at 4:33 someone found the net.  Bruins winger Brad Marchand found the puck on a rebound and put it into the goal to end the scoring drought and give the B’s a 1-0 3rd period lead.  Thomas was up to the challenge of preserving the victory for the Bruins.  He stopped the first 7 shots on goal for the Canadiens in the period.  He stopped shot #8 of as well at 13:39 in but Jeff Halpern took the rebound of that shot and put it into the net to tie the game at 1-1.  The two teams played out the last 6 minutes of the game with neither team being able to hit the game-winning goal.  This would be the second overtime game in a row.  By the end of the 3rd period Thomas had added 12 saves to his total for the night, bringing the grand total to 28, and Price had added 9, giving him 30 for the game.  Now whoever slipped up first would lose the game for his team.

Nathan Horton hit the game-winner 9 minutes into the 2nd OT

20 minutes in the first overtime period came and went without either team putting the puck into the net.  The Bruins battered Carey Price with shots on goal throughout the first overtime period but Price turned everything back.  He made 12 saves in the 1st overtime frame.  The Canadiens took 9 shots at Thomas, who stopped them all.  The 1st overtime period ended the way it began and we were to be subjected to a 5th period of hockey action between these two historic franchises.  We would go 9 more minutes in the 3rd period.  5 minutes into the period it had looked like Brian Gionta had the game won for Montreal.  The Habs were on a 2-1 break and Gionta took the pass and one timed the puck into the vacated side of the net but somehow Thomas reached over and made a miraculous stop of the shot.  Roughly four minutes later Andrew Ference blasted a shot at Carey Price that Price stopped with his pad.  Nathan Horton was there to clean up the rebound and Price did not stop his shot.  Horton put the puck into the net and gave the Bruins a grueling Game 5 victory after 89 minutes of hockey.

The Bruins celebrated a hard fought Game 5 victory

This was one of the greatest goalie duels that you will ever see in the playoffs.  Carey Price had 49 saves on 51 shots.  Tim Thomas saved all 44 of the shots that he faced.  Both goalies played all 89 minutes of the game.  In the end the Bruins took the game and a 3-2 series lead.  The Canadiens would take game 6 in Montreal and they would come back to the Garden for Game 7, where the B’s won in overtime again to beat the Canadiens in the series.  In the Bruins run to the cup this was the most exciting series.  It was fitting that it was Montreal they had to play first and had to play it to the bone just to get past them.  Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and when the Canadiens couldn’t put the Bruins down the B’s didn’t look back until they hoisted the Cup.

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