Twice they allowed Boston to tie it.
Heading into the locker room after a lackluster third period cost them a chance at a regulation victory, Carey Price knew that there was still a chance to recover.
"We all realized the game was still up for grabs, and feeling sorry for yourself is not the best way to go about things," the Montreal goalie said after making 48 saves to lead the Canadiens to a 4-3, double-overtime victory over Boston on Thursday.
P.K. Subban scored his second goal of the game at 4:17 of the second overtime, and the Canadiens won in Boston to take home-ice advantage from the team that had the NHL's best record in the regular season. Game 2 is back at the TD Garden on Saturday.
Rene Bourque and Francis Bouillon also scored for the Canadiens, who blew 2-0 and 3-2 leads in the third period. Subban's second goal came 7 seconds into Montreal's second power play of overtime, leading fans to pelt the ice with cups and giveaway towels as the players filed off to the locker rooms.
"They were the best team in the league all season long. They had a good first round; they played a solid game tonight," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "But us, we found a way to win."
Reilly Smith, Torey Krug and Johnny Boychuk scored for Boston, and Tuukka Rask made 29 saves. The Bruins, who never led in the game, had several other good chances in the third period and first overtime, with pucks hitting the crossbar and trickling across the crease but failing to cross the line.
"[We] don't get frustrated after one game," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Had lots of chances and we showed some resiliency. Have to find a way to bury those great opportunities we had. That is the regret."
The Bruins outshot the Canadiens 14-6 in the third period as they twice rallied to tie it. Montreal picked up a power play at the end of the first overtime and failed to score, and then another when Matt Bartkowski was sent off for taking down Dale Weise in the crease to keep him from getting to a loose puck.
The Canadiens won the ensuing faceoff and worked the puck around to Subban, who slapped it past Rask to end the game.
"We don't win that face off and we don't get that shot away," Subban said. "We've played against these guys for more than a few times and the Bruins are a resilient team. They always battle back and find a way but we were resilient tonight also."
The 34th postseason series between the two Original Six rivals began without much of the intensity of past matchups. Only after the Bruins fell behind 2-0 did they seem to realize that they were in trouble.
When Josh Gorges was sent off for holding 14 minutes into the second period -- Boston's first power play of the game -- the Bruins repeatedly tested Price, holding the possession in the Canadiens' zone virtually the whole 2 minutes and getting several good scoring chances.
Smith wristed one past a screened Price with less than 3 minutes gone in the third period to make it a one-goal game. Shortly after another unsuccessful power play, Milan Lucic muscled his way through the defense and passed it to Krug for a slap shot that went past Price's left skate.
Bouillon gave Montreal the lead again, finishing off a scramble in front of the net. But with 2 minutes left, the Bruins won a faceoff in the Canadiens' end, kept the puck in and then worked it around to Boychuk, who slapped it past Price to send the game into overtime.
Montreal won 24 of the previous 33 playoff series, but the Bruins have won seven of the last 11 and two in a row. In 2011, on their way to the Stanley Cup championship, Boston beat Montreal in seven games in the first round after losing the first two at home. ... Montreal won three of four in the regular season. ... Lars Eller has a point in all five Montreal playoff games so far.