x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Madness in Montreal

The Montreal Canadiens pull off their second surprise of the post-season, defeating the Penguins 5-2 at Pittsburgh in a decisive Game 7 to reach the Eastern Conference finals.

Canadiens fans take to the streets to celebrate a victory over the Penguins in the Eastern Conference semi-final.
Canadiens fans take to the streets to celebrate a victory over the Penguins in the Eastern Conference semi-final.

The Montreal Canadiens pulled off their second surprise of the post-season, defeating the Penguins 5-2 at Pittsburgh in a decisive Game 7 to reach the National Hockey League's Eastern Conference finals. The Canadiens will face the Boston Bruins or the Philadelphia Flyers for a place in the Stanley Cup finals. Their series is tied, with Game 7 tonight in Boston.

Montreal, the bottom seed in the conference, knocked out the top-seeded Capitals in the first round, and held on to triumph against the Penguins, the defending champions. Despite an NHL-record 24 Stanley Cups in the Canadiens' 100 years as franchise, there have been none in 17 years. Last season, their 100th, was particularly painful. After team executives predicted the Canadiens would contend for a championship, the Boston Bruins swept them in the first round.

"That's two big opponents we knocked off," said Brian Gionta in an on-ice interview. "We're looking forward to the conference finals and moving on." Gionta had two power-play goals and Mike Cammalleri scored his seventh goal of a series in which he upstaged Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as the Canadiens built a stunning four-goal lead. When it ended, the Canadiens crowded Jaroslav Halak, the goalkeeper, who made 37 saves in a dominant performance.

Meanwhile in Montreal, the team sold out the 21,273-seat Bell Centre in about four hours after the Canadiens announced plans to show the game live on the arena's high-definition scoreboard. Tickets cost 7.50 Canadian dollars (Dh26.85) each, and the team will donate proceeds to its foundation. Nothing stokes the passion of Montrealers like the Habs. Cars bearing flags with the franchise's bleu, blanc et rouge logo have become ubiquitous. The city's buses congratulate the team with messages on the front display panels.

Shortly after the victory fireworks erupted over St Catherine Street in the city as people crowd-surfed and held aloft trinkets including Stanley Cup replicas and a stuffed penguin. Flag-waving Habs fans who had watched the game at the arena spilled into the streets after the victory chanting "We want the Cup! We want the Cup!" Riot police tried to enforce calm, arresting about 25 people. Two officers sustained minor injuries.

* Agencies