TAMPA, Fla. – Daniel Briere might have been the most comfortable player on the ice.
Playing in his 109th career playoff game and first for the Montreal Canadiens, Briere skated around in overtime feeling fresh and like something good was going to happen. The least surprising thing was that Briere, a patented playoff performer, made the play to set up Dale Weise’s goal to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1.
It was Briere’s 110th point in the Stanley Cup playoffs but also evidence of how strong an overall game he played.
“I had lots of chances,” Briere said. “I really liked the play of our line. Talking to ourselves before the game, we wanted to bring energy to our team. I believe we were able to do that. Personally I felt like I had a lot of jump and probably could’ve scored a few goals before that overtime.”
Briere had a couple of the game’s better scoring chances despite playing in a role with Weise and Michael Bournival in which he wasn’t expected to bring offence. But that’s exactly what he brought on the game-winner, taking advantage of a Tampa Bay defensive breakdown to feed Weise for the winner.
“It was an excellent reward for them because they played an excellent game,” coach Michel Therrien said. “They deserved to score the winning goal.”
Given his noticeable play for much of the night, Briere probably deserved more than just a point. But Weise will take what he got.
“I thought he was awesome tonight,” Weise said of Briere. “He’s a guy that I grew up as a little kid watching him play, and he just raises his level in the playoffs and you saw that tonight.”
Briere helped beat the Habs in the 2010 Eastern Conference final while with the Philadelphia Flyers, putting up three points in the series’ first two games. He led all players in those playoffs with 30 points in 23 games.
Even though his minutes aren’t that of a top-liner, Montreal hopes to continue to reap the benefits of Briere’s playoff prowess, as it did Wednesday night.
“He’s played a ton of playoff games and played some big games,” captain Brian Gionta said. “No different tonight.”
Briere didn’t want to blow one primary assist out of proportion, even though it was a significant one.
“I don’t know, it’s just one game,” he said. “I don’t want to get too crazy. It’s a huge win. It’s a great feeling.”
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