The Ottawa Senators will try to finish off the second- seeded Montreal Canadiens when they visit the Habs on Thursday for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The seventh-seeded Senators enter Game 5 with a 3-1 edge in the series. Ottawa earned a split at Montreal's Bell Centre to begin the best-of-seven set before taking the last two meetings on home ice. The Sens then used a late comeback to force overtime in Game 4 and won it in the extra session on a fluky goal by Kyle Turris.
After destroying the Canadiens, 6-1, in a fight-filled Game 3, the Senators won a much more subdued contest between the Northeast Division foes on Thursday.
Although the Game 4 contest was short on penalty minutes, it was long on drama. Montreal entered the third period with a 2-0 lead after scoring twice in the span of 62 seconds early in the second. However, Mika Zibanejad cut the deficit to 2-1 with 8:05 remaining in the third and Cory Conacher tied it with just 23 seconds left, setting up Turris' OT game-winner.
On the winning play, Turris was harassed by a Canadiens defender in the left circle, but the Sens forward escaped long enough to send a wrister to the Habs' net, which deflected off the elbow of defenseman Raphael Diaz and caromed past Peter Budaj -- who began the extra session in place of the injured Carey Price -- to end the contest.
"I thought both teams played hard and played hockey. They were better than us for awhile, we were better than them for awhile," offered Senators head coach Paul MacLean.
Craig Anderson stopped 26 shots for Ottawa, which can advance to the second round for the first time since 2007 with one more victory. The Senators have been bounced out in the first round in three straight trips to the playoffs since making a run to the Stanley Cup Finals in '07.
PK Subban and Alex Galchenyuk lit the lamp early in the second period for the Canadiens. Price ended up with 30 saves, but Budaj was saddled with the loss.
Meanwhile, it was announced Thursday morning that Price will miss the remainder of this series after suffering an unspecified lower-body injury while stopping the last shot of regulation.
Budaj has seen action in five career playoff games, but this will be his first start.
The injuries are beginning to mount for Montreal, as it was announced Wednesday that captain Brian Gionta needs to undergo season-ending surgery on his left biceps muscle. On top of losing the captain for the rest of the playoffs, forwards Brandon Prust, Ryan White and Lars Eller were already scheduled to miss Thursday's game with various upper-body injuries.
In addition to injuries, the Habs also may have been the victim of a bad replay decision in the third period on Thursday. After Zibanejad redirected a Chris Neil pass from the right-wing boards into the net with his skate, the league looked at the goal. Despite overhead replays which seemed to reveal the puck being directed in with a distinct kicking motion, the goal was allowed to stand.
"It was a kicking motion, there's nothing you can do about it, it's a league decision," said Habs head coach Michel Therrien.
The Canadiens will try to stave off elimination tonight on home ice, where they were 14-7-3 as the host during the regular season.
Ottawa, which has never squandered a 3-1 series edge in its modern history, was 10-11-3 on the road this season.
If necessary, Game 6 of this series is scheduled for Saturday in Ottawa.