MONTREAL—Canadiens fans celebrating the team’s overtime win in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final series against the Tampa Bay Lightning say they’re hopeful the team can come back.
In addition to the usual cheers, fans outside Montreal’s Bell Centre arena had a new one on Monday night, “Habs in seven!”
The Canadiens now trail the Lightning 3-1 in the team’s first appearance in the final since 1993—the same year Montreal won its last Stanley Cup.
Many fans watching the game at an outdoor viewing event in Montreal’s Place des Festivals, as well as those outside the Bell Centre arena, where large crowds have gathered during previous playoff games, say they’ve never lost faith.
“If we didn’t have hope we wouldn’t be here,” said Luc Doiron, at the city-organized outdoor viewing event, after the second period, when the game was tied 1-1.
Before the game, fans said if the Canadiens could score first—and if goalie Carey Price played well—they believed their team could win.
“Get on the board first, get the first goal, we got this game,” said Mitesh Patel at the outdoor event before the game started.
After the game, the sentiment was the same.
“It was all about scoring the first goal tonight, we scored the first goal and I really think it makes a big difference,” said Curren Dewan, who was celebrating the win downtown with a replica of the Stanley Cup. “We score the first goal in the next game, you never know, we can definitely win this, it’s not over by any means.”
Other fans gave credit to the goalie.
“You gotta give it to Carey Price,” said Jake Gouthro outside the Bell Centre moments before overtime began. “The guy’s keeping them in the game. While Tampa’s offence is pretty good, our goaltender’s better.”
The celebrations outside the arena wouldn’t last long. Police used tear gas on the crowd outside the Bell Centre minutes after the game−winning goal, moving quickly to clear the street in front of the arena and, on at least one occasion, pepper spraying spectators who had been inside the area as they left the building and encountered a police line.
Police in riot gear spent the next hour dispersing crowds of revellers in downtown Montreal, using tear gas and pepper spray several more times.
Police had said they would be ready for large crowds and would be noticeably present at places where the game was being broadcast or where people were expected to gather.
Police made 15 arrests during a rowdy celebration after the Canadiens’ series-clinching victory against the Vegas Golden Knights in late June. Eight police vehicles were vandalized and at least one was overturned.
François Beaudry, a fan celebrating downtown, called the win destiny.
“It was just destiny tonight, it was meant to be,” he said. “They weren’t supposed to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, they weren’t supposed to beat Winnipeg, they weren’t supposed to beat the Golden Knights, guess what’s going to happen.”
Chris Prejet, who travelled from Manitoba to watch the game in person, described seeing the Canadiens in a Stanley Cup final as a once in a lifetime experience.
He’s hopeful the team can win the series.
“If they play the way they can, then they’re the one team that can come back,” he said.
Some fans said they’re happy their favourite team made it this far—regardless of what happens.
“We didn’t think they would make it, we weren’t even supposed to make it passed the first round, but Montreal showed that they can compete with the best and then made it to the finals,” he said.
Still, he’d like to see three more wins. “We hope we get the cup this year,” he said.
By Jacob Serebrin