The Montreal Canadiens completed a comeback from the brink of elimination to dump the top-seeded Washington Capitals out of the National Hockey League playoffs in the first round.
The eighth-seeded Canadiens, who trailed 3-1 in the best-of-seven-game series, won the deciding seventh game 2- 1 at the Verizon Center in Washington last night to advance to an Eastern Conference semifinal matchup against the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak made 41 saves against the team that ended the regular season with a league-best 54-15 record. Marc-Andre Bergeron and Dominic Moore got the goals for the Canadiens.
“Before the series started no one gave us a chance to win, not even one game,” Halak said. “We proved everybody was wrong.”
The Canadiens, seeking a record-extending 25th Stanley Cup title and first since 1993, are the ninth team ranked No. 8 to oust a top-seeded club in 32 series since the present playoff format began in 1994. It was Montreal’s third rally from a 3-1 playoff deficit.
“We just needed to come out game by game and do our best, and that’s what we did the last three games,” said Halak, who found himself at the bottom of a pile of teammates at the end of the game.
Washington captain Alex Ovechkin, the two-time league Most Valuable Player, has now lost three of four career playoff series, which have all gone to seven games.
‘Bet My House’
“I would’ve bet my house that they wouldn’t have beaten us three games in a row,” Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said.
All three Eastern Conference division winners are out of the playoffs. The New Jersey Devils lost to the Philadelphia Flyers and the Boston Bruins eliminated the Buffalo Sabres.
Bergeron gave Montreal a 1-0 lead late in the first period on a power play. After a scoreless second period, Moore made it 2-0 before Washington’s Brooks Laich scored for the Capitals with 2:16 left in regulation time.
“We’re all disappointed,” said Ovechkin. “It’s terrible feelings right now.”
Montreal’s first game against the Penguins will be in Pittsburgh tomorrow.