The Montreal Canadiens move into the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1993.
Montreal defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 at home in overtime in Game 6 on Thursday to continue their unlikely run. Artturi Lehmonen hit 1:39 in OT.
No Canadian team has hoisted the Stanley Cup since Montreal won in 1993. Few predicted the Habs would be the last Canadian team this year. Before the postseason, Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill listed Montreal at +3500 to win the cup.
The last time a Canadian team ever reached the Stanley Cup final was the Vancouver Canucks in 2011. This current 28-year title drought was the longest time the NHL passed without a Stanley Cup being awarded to a Canadian team , six years between 1936 and 1941.
The Canadiens have won 24 Stanley Cups with an NHL record. You will face the winner of Game 7 on Friday between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup Final, which could start on Monday.
Closing Vegas in Game 6 was an added reason to celebrate as the game fell on Saint Jean Baptiste Day, one of Quebec’s biggest holidays.
The Canadiens won three playoffs in a row against the powerful Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round and celebrated a breathtaking comeback. Montreal then swept the jets in the second round.
Even after reaching the semi-finals, the Habs had to overcome obstacles. They missed one of their best defenders, Jeff Petry, in Game 1. Montreal’s home games at the Bell Center had 3,500 fans, compared to nearly 18,000 rocking Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena. The Canadiens have also been without head coach Dominique Ducharme in the last four games of the series as he isolates himself after positive COVID tests.
Assistant coach Luke Richardson was on the bench from Game 3 of this series; Richardson is technically the interim coach as Ducharme replaced Claude Julien when he was fired in February.
Montreal goalkeeper Carey Price was a star on the streak – he continued his strong postseason after a less-than-stellar regular season. The defense structure of Habs 1-3-1 completely clogged Vegas in the neutral zone and frustrated strikers who usually generate attacks from the onslaught. Only four different Vegas strikers scored a goal in the series, with only two (Max Pacioretty and Reilly Smith) being in the top six. The captain of the Golden Knights, Mark Stone, was kept without a point.
“We kind of went into this series as underdogs and they probably thought they would have more puck possession and more power play,” said Montreal defender Erik Gustafsson on Wednesday. “But I think we’ve been in since Game 1.”
The Canadiens got a boost from their young strikers. In this postseason 19 goals were scored by players up to 21; 14 of them were rated by Canadiens. This includes rookie striker Cole Caufield, who led all players by four goals in the Vegas series.