The Montreal Canadiens will play the Tampa Bay Lightning or New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Canadiens defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in overtime in Game 6 at Bell Centre in Montreal on Thursday to win the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Semifinals. They defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the first round and swept the Winnipeg Jets in the second round.
Montreal, which advanced to the Cup Final for the first time since winning the championship in 1993, finished the regular season with 59 points and will open on the road against Tampa Bay (75 points) or New York (71). The Lightning and Islanders will play Game 7 at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
“It’s not too hard to figure out both teams,” said Luke Richardson, who has coached Montreal the past four games after coach Dominique Ducharme tested positive for COVID-19. “One team kind of plays like us (New York), and the other team is a very, very dangerous offensive team (Tampa Bay). You’ve got to be very disciplined, you’ve got to check hard, harder than we even are now.
“We’re not really looking too far ahead, but we know we’re going to play one of those two teams. We really want to start focusing and preparing ourselves and our game and making sure our game is getting better. But at the same time, we will look at video, watch the game tomorrow and hopefully it goes three overtimes, tires them out, whoever it is. That’ll help us there too. We’re going to enjoy tonight, take tomorrow off, and we’ll regroup the next day and see who we got.”
Tyler Toffoli led the Canadiens with 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games entering Thursday. Nick Suzuki had scored 13 points (five goals, eight assists), and Joel Armia and Jesperi Kotkaniemi each had scored five goals. Carey Price was 11-5 in 16 games and was second in the NHL in the playoffs in goals-against average (2.02) and tied for second in save percentage (.933).
Montreal has played Tampa Bay three times in the playoffs, winning once, but lost the most recent series, in six games in the 2015 Eastern Conference Second Round. The Canadiens are 3-1 against the Islanders in the playoffs, including winning the most recent series, in five games in the 1993 Wales Conference Final.
The Canadiens (Scotia North Division) did not play the Lightning (Discover Central Division) or Islanders (MassMutual East Division) this season because of temporary divisional realignment due to COVID-19.
Montreal was 0-4-0 against Tampa Bay last season and was outscored 14-6. Defenseman Jeff Petry led the Canadiens with three points (two goals, one assist). Price lost each game and had a 3.59 GAA and an .857 save percentage.
The Lightning were led by defenseman Victor Hedman, who scored seven points (two goals, five assists). Steven Stamkos scored five points (three goals, two assists) in three games, Nikita Kucherov scored five points (two goals, three assists), and Alex Killorn scored three goals. Andrei Vasilevskiy was 4-0-0 and allowed six goals on 148 shots (1.50 GAA, .959 save percentage).
Montreal was 2-0-0 against New York last season. Brendan Gallagher (two goals, two assists) and Phillip Danault (one goal, three assists) each scored four points for the Canadiens, and Petry scored two goals. Price started each game, allowing four goals on 45 shots (2.00 GAA, .911 save percentage).
The Islanders were led by defenseman Ryan Pulock (one goal, one assist) and forwards Brock Nelson (one goal, one assist), Josh Bailey (two assists) and Jordan Eberle (two assists), who each scored two points. Semyon Varlamov allowed two goals on 14 shots in two games but did not start either of them.
Montreal has advanced to the Stanley Cup Final 33 times since the NHL was formed in 1917-18 and has won the Cup 23 times, each the most in League history. The Canadiens also won the Cup in 1916.