From the opening puck drop to the final buzzer, it did not disappoint for one second.
It featured highly entertaining, hold-your-breath, heart-pounding action, and only a quest for Lord Stanley's Cup could generate such muster and determination from both hockey clubs. In the end, it was the Bruins who pulled out a dramatic 2-1 double-overtime victory Saturday night at TD Garden.
Nathan Horton notched his second career playoff goal at 9:03 of the second overtime to help Boston gain its first lead of this best-of-seven series, a 3-2 advantage. The Bruins have shown tremendous resiliency after dropping the first two games and they have now won three in a row with the series shifting back to Montreal for Game 6 on Tuesday.
"It was an exciting game for both teams, but in the end it felt good to get that," Horton said. "We knew it was going to be a greasy goal [that won it], and it sure was. It was a rebound, but they all count. It was a big goal for us."
The Bruins entered this series thinking it would take all seven games to win and advance, and that still could be the case. Boston has shown resolve the past three games and is feeling confident, but in no way satisfied.
It's far from over and the Bruins know it.
"We're pretty excited about this one right now, but we know it's going to be really tough going into that building [the Bell Centre]," said Bruins forwards Brad Marchand, who notched his first career playoff goal to give Boston a 1-0 lead at 4:33 of the third period. "It's always hard to play [there], especially do or die in the last game. The last game is always the toughest one to get. We saw that last year with Philly, so we just have to make sure that we're ready. They're going to come out really hard and we have to match that."
It's interesting that numerous Bruins players, even coach Claude Julien, mentioned last spring's historic collapse to the Philadelphia Flyers without being prompted, so it's quite obvious the team learned that no lead, no matter how large or small, is ever safe in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"I think we experienced that last year, right? You don't want to bring that up, but unfortunately, it is what it is," Julien said. "That last win is always a tough one and we recognize that. We need to go to Montreal with intentions of winning that game and playing to win that game. We understand it's going to be the toughest game of the series. They'll be playing for their lives and they'll come out with their best effort and we have to be ready for that."
Both the Bruins and the Canadiens staged an epic battle Saturday night, writing another chapter to an already monumental rivalry. Both teams played great hockey, but only one team can win, and the Bruins did just that.
"Our guys went out there and I thought they played a really great game," Julien said. "To be honest with you, I think both teams really played well tonight. You're sitting there, honestly, watching a 1-1 hockey game and after the first overtime, starting the second one, and you say, 'It's going to be a tough loss for whatever team loses because both teams played well.' Goaltenders made some tough saves at both ends. It was an exciting hockey game. Unfortunately, there's a winner, there's a loser, and you always hope to come out on the positive side as we did tonight."
Both goaltenders were spectacular, with the Bruins' Tim Thomas (44 saves) and the Canadiens' Carey Price (49 saves) showcasing their abilities with quality and timely highlight-reel saves at both ends of the ice.
It was a duel between the two masked men.
"Yeah, that was," Thomas said. "Carey played a very good game; he made some really good saves. My job, like I've said it before, I'm not really playing against Carey, so to speak, but tonight I was, in a way. Just because whenever he made saves, I had to make sure I made the saves because it was such a tight game."
After a scoreless two periods, Marchand finally gave Boston a 1-0 lead at 4:33 of the third period. Montreal answered and knotted the game at 1-1 at 13:56. After the first overtime, Julien kept his comments short and sweet to his players. He explained to keep the shifts short and not to panic when they had control of the puck.
With both teams exhausted, it was the Bruins who had just enough left to finish it off when Horton notched his game-winning goal in the second overtime.
The Bruins players mobbed one another in the far corner of the rink, behind the Montreal net. With the exception of some Habs fans, the majority of the 17,565 in attendance made the building shake.
As thrilled as the Bruins were with their performance, they haven't accomplished anything yet.
"Yeah, it's definitely a great feeling; it was a great game," said Bruins forward Milan Lucic, who registered his first point of the series when he assisted on Horton's goal. "They came out hard and battled hard all the way to the end and it was definitely the toughest game of the series so far, and I think moving forward, it's only going to get tougher.
"We learned about that last year -- you can't take any lead for granted -- and we're just excited that we were able to pull through and get that win today. And we want to enjoy it tonight."
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.