MONTREAL -- Call this the Miracle of PK.
P.K. stands for Pernell Karl, the given names of a rookie defenseman named Subban who was summoned from the minors to play for the Canadiens in Game 6, an elimination match.
And P.K. (as you surely already know) stands for penalty kill, an area in which Montreal has excelled against the NHL's best power play. The Washington Capitals' percentage in the series is so low -- 3.3, one-for-30 -- it resembles the prime rate.
Anyway, a brilliant
While genuflecting towards Halak, now 9-0-1 in games this season in which he has faced 40 or more shots, this sweet story starts with a defenseman who arrived Monday morning after helping the Hamilton Bulldogs eliminate the Manitoba Moose in the first round of the AHL playoffs the previous night. (When Subban assisted on Cammalleri's second goal midway through the first period, it was his 10th point of the playoffs. Alas for Montreal, the other nine were as a Bulldog, but we're getting a little ahead of ourselves.) He played major minutes in the minor-league win, but fatigue is a relatively foreign concept to a man two weeks shy of his 21st birthday. He looked daisy-fresh, from a hit on
Subban actually had been called up for two games in February, playing a tad over 40 minutes and compiling two assists while demonstrating what is known in Montreal as sang-froid. He is a high-risk defenseman, who at some point is going to give both teams an excellent chance to score. Given he was plus-46 in the minors this year, he generally was providing a bigger boost to the Bulldogs. The Canadiens had an opportunity to call him up for Game 5 in the absence of
The inherent danger was the swashbuckling Subban would unbuckle his swashes on the big stage. But playing with
Subban's line on the scoresheet would read: 14 shifts, 10:02 of ice time, 6:57 at even strength, one blocked shot, two hits, one assist, a plus one. These were not exactly world-beating numbers, but Subban made a contribution to the Canadiens and to the festive mood of the 21,273 who chanted his name, or, more properly, his initials.
The lines in the Canadiens dressing room after Montreal's first home playoff win since 2008 were even better.
"I didn't expect to get called up," Subban said. "Last night (Bulldogs assistant coach)
Ever been to Washington?
"No," said Subban, who is black. "Maybe (
The other PK was less dramatic than the insertion of the thrilling Subban into the series, but more telling. Indeed, the Canadiens' penalty killers -- especially the defense pair of
The Capitals scored on a tick more than every four chances during the regular season, hardly surprising given the personnel. They are basically the Four Horsemen of the Power Play Apocalypse (plus
"They're a bunch of (right-handed shots), so they're going to work off the one side," Gorges said. "You know they're looking to tee up Ovechkin. I think we did a great job of forcing them to the outside, making them pass the puck to areas they didn't want to shoot from. It was good because we were all on the same page. We moved in sync. I think we were maybe a half step ahead of them, meaning that we were directing where they had to shoot from. That's all you can ask on a five-on-three PK, to put them in a tougher position."
Gill is the fulcrum of the kill. He is 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, able to gobble up pucks and space. He is not much of a skater and a mediocre passer. He does not possess a laser from the point. He is not overtly physical. Sometimes watching him handle the puck is like seeing a terrier play with a chew toy. But he is living proof of
Halak, of course, was the other great penalty killer. In the second period when the Capitals finally seemed to have found some rhythm with the man advantage, Halak made a video-at-10 glove save on
The Capitals have one final chance to get this right Wednesday in Game 7 in the nation's capital.
Unless they can solve Montreal's P.K., the penalty kill more than the defenseman, the operative initials for the NHL's most dynamic team will be R.I.P.