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Canadiens advance to Eastern Conference final with 3-1 win over Bruins

Canadiens advance to Eastern Conference final with 3-1 win over Bruins

Posted by Juan Gavasa on May 15, 2014

The moon over Boston was full at 3:16 p.m. Wednesday afternoon – but of course it was – just in case the stellar Canadiens-Boston Bruins Eastern Conference quarter-final needed some stardust.

Which it didn’t.

The Canadiens are headed to the third round of the NHL playoffs — that would be the Eastern Conference final against the New York Rangers — after completing a remarkable upset of the Boston Bruins, the league’s best club over the regular season.

The Habs spanked the Bruins, their most bitter archrival, 3-1 at TD Garden Wednesday to advance and send Boston packing.

Hockey-mad Montreal will now see its first Eastern final since 2010, when the Canadiens fell in five games to the Philadelphia Flyers after gruelling, improbable seven-game quarter- and semi-final rounds against Washington and Pittsburgh.

We’ve got former Canadiens coach Alain Vigneault returning to Montreal behind the Rangers bench; his superstar goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, needing to warm up his tepid, at best, recent record on Montreal ice; inspirational forward Martin St-Louis bringing his huge talent in a small package; and the homecoming, in a way, of stud defenceman Ryan McDonagh (see Gomez: Scott, as if you need to).

This always seemed like a good matchup for the Canadiens, and one the Bruins, despite their big, bad bluster, probably feared.

This was the 34th time the clubs have met in the post-season since 1928, the Canadiens now having won 25 and lost nine.

The last thing the Bruins wanted Wednesday was an early hole, but that’s exactly what they got, Brandon Prust doing the spadework for Daniel Brière, who fed Dale Weise in the Boston goalmouth for a tip past goalie Tuukka Rask.

It was the second consecutive game in which the Canadiens pounced early, Lahs Ellah (Boston spelling) having cashed Montreal’s first at 2:11 in Game 6 on Monday, paving the way for a 4-0 victory.

The Bruins seemed tentative, nervous, almost scared for a good portion of the first period, showing their most poised offence while killing two penalties.

Max Pacioretty put Montreal on top by two midway through the second, one-timing a rolling puck fed beautifully by David Desharnais after some terrific work by Brendan Gallagher.

By now the Gahden faithful were in serious distress, hooting their displeasure as the Canadiens hemmed in the home team and prevented them from getting anything untracked.

But then the Bruins struck on the power play, a Torey Krug shot deflecting in off Jarome Iginla near the end of Pacioretty’s minor for holding the stick.

That snapped Price’s shutout streak at 103:46 and gave the building some life.

But despite the predictable third-period Bruins push, Price held the fort until Brière banked a shot in off the skate of weary Boston captain Zdeno Chara at 17:07 to seal the deal.

The series finale marked the first Game 7 in Montreal head coach Michel Therrien’s 53-game NHL playoff coaching career. To which more than one glass-half-full wise guy had asked: “So what you’re saying is that Michel has never lost a Game 7?”

Exactly right. And he’s won one now, too.

Behind the Bruins bench, Claude Julien dropped to 5-5 overall.

Much credit to eight members of the Canadiens who didn’t fold in the pressure of their first NHL Game 7: Brendan Gallagher, Rene Bourque, Weise, Nathan Beaulieu, Michael Bournival, Desharnais, Pacioretty and Alexei Emelin.

Price held a huge edge in Game 7 stats: the Canadiens goalie was 1-1 with a 1.91 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. Rask was 1-1, 3.87 and .855.

Price’s Game 7 victory came back in 2008, a 5-0 shutout of Boston, all four of his post-season shutouts coming vs. the Bruins.

The Canadiens were 13-9 all-time in Game 7s, 5-6 on the road; Boston was 13-11, 12-7 on home ice.

The Bruins knew their wisest move would have been not to let this go the distance, up 3-2 going into Game 5 in Montreal on Monday. But the Canadiens’ best game of the playoffs produced a 4-0 Habs win and sent this one back to Boston.

That was the scene in 2011, the Canadiens having survived Game 6 at the Bell Centre to force the Bruins to seven. But that year, Boston, en route to winning their most recent Stanley Cup, became the first team in NHL history to win three Game 7s in a single playoff year. That run began vs. the Canadiens, their Eastern quarter-final decided in overtime at TD Garden.

An interesting sideline Wednesday was that referees Dave Jackson and Dan O’Rourke were chosen to work the game. This was the pair that incensed Julien after Game 2, the Bruins coach not-so-vaguely criticizing their work.

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