WASHINGTON // Stanley Cup favourites the Washington Capitals fell at the first play-off hurdle yesterday after another inspired display by Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak gave the Canadiens a shock victory in their Game Seven decider. "No one gave us a chance but here we are," Halak told reporters after the 2-1 victory over the top-seeds at the Verizon Center. The Slovakian made 41 saves as the Canadiens became the first eighth seed to win a series after falling behind 3-1.
"After we were trailing 3-1 we said we have nothing to lose and we came out game by game," Halak said. "Now we're going to the second round." Montreal will face Sidney Crosby and the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference semi-finals starting tomorrow. Halak had to be at his brilliant best to repel wave after wave of attacks by the Capitals, who set a franchise record with 54 regular season wins and boasted the league's top offence.
The Slovak made 37 stops in the Game Five win and 53 in Game Six to lead his team back from the brink but the Caps, led by two-time MVP Alex Ovechkin, were still expected to close out the series on home ice. The Canadiens, however, took the lead when Marc-Andre Bergeron converted a slap shot with 30 seconds left in the first period. After a scoreless second, Dominic Moore extended the advantage with a snap shot at 16:24 into the final period.
Washington's Brooks Laich got his team to within one with 2:16 left but the Capitals, who had a man-advantage after a Montreal penalty with 1:44 remaining, were unable to find a way past Halak. * Reuters