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Two-goal scorer Christopher Higgins applauds the Canadiens’ Bell Centre fans, who sold out the arena for the 141st consecutive time.
Dave Sandford, Getty Images
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Bring on the Boston Bruins, the Canadiens’ opponent in the quarterfinal round of the NHL playoffs, likely beginning Thursday in Montreal. And is this a good time to say that Montreal swept Boston 8-0 this season?
The Canadiens defeated the summer-bound Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 at the Bell Centre tonight, and thanks to Buffalo’s 3-0 win in Boston, Montreal will play the Bruins no matter what happens Sunday in the game between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Red Fisher column is here.
Should Pittsburgh lose to the Flyers, the Canadiens win the Eastern Conference and the Flyers push Boston into eighth place, making it a No. 1 vs. 8 matchup. Should the Penguins beat Philly, Montreal finishes second and Boston winds up in seventh, again matching up the Canadiens vs. the Bruins.
In theory, tonight’s game meant nothing to the Maple Leafs, out of playoff contention for some time. But give it to Montreal’s time-honoured Original Six foe from down Highway 401 – they made a game out of it.
Mark Streit got the Canadiens on the scoreboard tonight with his 13th of the season, a harmless looking snap shot from the blue line that handcuffed Toronto goalie Andrew Raycroft at 9:00 of the second period. Raycroft had been brilliant till then, making 18 saves – at least a handful of them getting in the way of seemingly sure goals.
Christopher Higgins doubled Montreal’s lead with a bullet from the right wing at 14:03, whipping his 26th of the year over Raycroft’s glove.
Toronto got one back with 1:58 left in the period, Mark Bell left completely alone in the shallow slot to take a Kris Newberry feed from behind the net, his shot beating Habs goalie Carey Price cleanly.
But the Canadiens clicked on the power play at 7:29 of the third, a heads-up play by Bryan Smolinski setting up Higgins for his second of the night.
Bell Centre fans rose as one and gave the Canadiens a deafening standing ovation through the entire final minute – including a wild fight with two seconds left between Toronto’s Bryan McCabe and Habs’ callup Gregory Stewart, whose grin alone was enough to light the Montreal dressing room a half-hour later.
The Canadiens outshot the Leafs 36-27.