What a night it was for Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle.
He went from being the goat of the game to one of the stars then nearly the goat again.
His night started when he embarrassingly fell for no apparent reason (perhaps one of the Canadiens ghosts they talk about in Montreal hooked his feet) and watched in horror as the Canadiens scored the first goal less than six minutes into the game.
"Kind of a rough start," Boyle said.
"We got back to the bench," defense partner Brad Lukowich said with a smile, "and I said, "Fall down six minutes into the game. Nice going."'
Boyle, though, made up for it by scoring the tying goal midway through the second. Well, actually he was just skating toward the net when Vinny Lecavalier shot a puck off his right shin guard and the puck deflected into the net.
"That's all skill, boys," Boyle said, joking. "I planned to do that. Not many guys in the world can score a goal like that."
Boyle then had to hold his breath when the Lightning, clinging to a 2-1 lead, killed off his cross checking penalty with less than eight minutes left in the game.
Montreal coach Claude Julien said after the game that Canadiens captain and leading scorer Saku Koivu played the entire series with a cracked rib, torn cartilage in his rib cage and a bruised lung. Julien said Koivu sustained the injury when he was cross-checked by Martin Lapointe in Game 1 of the first round against Boston.
"Our guys showed a lot of courage like that," Julien said.
Meantime, another third of Montreal's top line went down with less than a minute left in the first period. Richard Zednik sprained his left ankle when he was hauled down by the Lightning's Fredrik Modin. He did not return. X-rays, Julien said, showed no break.
Starting the play
Was Dmitry Afanasenkov in the right place at the right time? Or did Montreal's Jim Dowd simply make a bonehead play. Either way, Afanasenkov topped the biggest game of his rookie season with an assist on Brad Richards' winning goal.
It started innocently enough with Dowd's blind drop pass in the Lightning zone. Afanasenkov, a tireless skater, turned immediately and went the other way.
He passed to Richards at the Montreal blue line. Richards passed back, which drew defenseman Francis Bouillon to Afanasenkov, who returned the puck to Richards for the goal.
It was a seasoned play and his first of two assists of the game.
"I'm pretty confident right now," said Afanasenkov, who has one goal in the playoffs. "Every game, I'm getting more and more confident."
"It's not only the big plays that you make, but the small, little play right before the big play," coach John Tortorella said. "He countered right away. Everybody on our bench was yelling shoot. But he made the pass to Richie, and he scored. Maybe that's one more big play that we made that Montreal didn't, and the result was a win."
The Canadiens fans gave the home team a touching and well-deserved send-off Thursday as they rose to their feet, applauded and sang Ole, ole as the final seconds ticked away.
"It was outstanding, and I think the players needed that; to see our fans stand up and applaud. And we just were swept in a series," Julien said. "We accomplished a lot. But if you don't win the Stanley Cup, your season ends with a loss. That's always hard to take. What the fans did tonight, the players appreciate it and the coaches appreciate it. We probably have the best fans in this league."
In a world of his own
The pregame ceremonies at the Bell Centre have been stirring, with music and images of the Stanley Cup and former Canadiens greats flashed on the ice.
"When everyone was screaming and chanting, it was pretty exciting," Lecavalier said.
Asked what he thought, Tampa Bay defenseman Cory Sarich said he didn't realize what was going on. "Were we in that?" he said. "Didn't even hardly notice it. What ceremony? I was oblivious to it. Didn't even notice it."
Odds and ends
Martin St. Louis' six-game points streak came to end. ... Lecavalier ended the series with five goals and two assists. ... Pavel Kubina led Tampa Bay's defensemen with 22:25 of playing time and was plus-2.