BROSSARD, Que. – Dale Weise is finding out what it’s like to be a Montreal Canadien when they’re winning in the springtime.
The city groaned when general manager Marc Bergevin sent defenceman Raphael Diaz to Vancouver Canucks for the little-known Weise on Feb. 3, but now the energetic fourth-line right-winger is becoming a folk hero.
His breakaway goal in Game 3 of a NHL Eastern Conference semifinal on Tuesday night became his second game-winner of the playoffs as the Canadiens downed the rival Boston Bruins 4-2 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Weise had scored in overtime in the first game of an opening round sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
His first taste of his new-found fame came this week when he was out for a stroll with his fiancee, with seven-month-old son Hunter in a stroller.
“This car pulled over right on the sidewalk,” Weise said Wednesday. “The guy was in the driver’s seat and I was on the right side.
“In the middle of the green light he’s reached across and he’s banging on the window and yelling. My fiancee’s like ‘what is this guy doing?’ She’s freaking out, and he’s giving me the thumbs up. It was pretty outrageous.”
Weise will have a chance to grow his legend even more in Game 4 on Thursday night at the Bell Centre, as the Canadiens attempt to put a choke hold on the series.
Taking a lead on the favoured Bruins has built a considerable buzz in Montreal, but a series in which Boston has looked overwhelming at times is far from over.
The Canadiens blew 2-0 and 3-2 leads before winning in overtime in the series opener. Then they wasted a 3-1 lead by conceding four third-period goal in a 5-3 setback in Game 2 in Boston.
At home on Tuesday night, Montreal scored twice in the first period and made it 3-0 on Weise’s goal before the Bruins struck back with a pair. Lars Eller ended the threat with a final-minute empty-net goal.
“This is such a huge rivalry,” said Weise. “When they meet in the regular season it’s looked at like a playoff match-up. It’s such a cool thing to be a part of.”
The Bruins acknowledge they did not have their best game, staring with goalie Tuukka Rask who allowed three goals on 25 shots and who now has let in 10 in three games.
Perhaps for the first time in the playoffs, they missed injured defence veterans Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid, as youngster Dougie Hamilton in particular struggled at times. McQuaid is gone for the season, and while Seidenberg is skating, there was no word on when he may return.
But the Bruins can never be counted out, as they’ve shown repeatedly in recent seasons.
“We’re a group that’s confident, but we have guys now that are frustrated,” said Boston coach Claude Julien. “They know they have to be better and they will be better.
“It’s a 2-1 series. It’s not the end of the world here. We’ve just got to battle back. There’s no reason to panic. We haven’t in the past and we’re not about to panic now.”
The Canadiens had surprises for Boston, including a tweak of the top two lines that saw Thomas Vanek put on the second unit with Tomas Plekanec and Michael Bournival while the pesky Brendan Gallagher moved up with David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty.
Montreal also got a strong 26-save outing from goalie Carey Price and a third straight two-point game from defenceman P.K. Subban, who has 11 points in the last six playoff games.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Subban is the first Canadiens defenceman to record a six-game playoff point streak since Larry Robinson in 1985.
“He is a game changer,” Gallagher said of Subban. “He’s just giving us a lot of energy right now.”
The Canadiens also used one of their strengths, shot-blocking, to turn away 29 attempts before they could reach Price.
“They’re taking away a lot of scoring chances,” said Boston forward Shawn Thornton. “They came out with a lot of energy.
“I thought our pace was pretty good, but if you give up a couple of goals, then you’re chasing. We have to shore it up and hopefully get back to the way we we’re used to playing.”
It has all conspired to make it a pleasant time to be Canadien, especially for a newcomer like Weise.
The 25-year-old had a goal and an assist for his first playoff game with more than one point and only the second of his 192-game NHL career.
He was one of three pickups ahead of the March 5 NHL trade deadline, along with defenceman Mike Weaver and Vanek, who have been key contributors to the Canadiens playoff run.
Weise may not even have had a chance to play had Travis Moen and Alex Galchenyuk not been injured when the playoff started. Now it is hard to see how coach Michel Therrien could take him out.
Although he is from Winnipeg, Weise grew up a Montreal fan, mainly because his father worshipped the Canadiens. So he considered the trade a dream come true.
In his third season in Vancouver, Weise was ignored by coach John Tortorella, but landed on his feet as a regular fourth liner in Montreal. He was scratched three games in a row late in the season, but has been ball of energy since then. He considered it a wake-up call.
And now he’s getting the rock star treatment from Canadiens fans, which he said never happened before, even in a hockey market like Vancouver.
“I was in a grocery store and I was walking into an elevator and this guy wouldn’t let me get on the elevator,” a grinning Weise recalled of another recent incident. “He was grabbing my shoulder, he was so excited and pumped up.
“Then his buddy beside him said ‘relax, relax’ and the elevator was closing and he kept saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’ I love the passionate fans. I think it’s awesome.”