Those pesky Montreal Canadiens just won’t go away. In Game 6 at the Bell Centre on Monday night, Montreal hung on for a 4–3 win to force a Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Wednesday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.
Despite losing giant shutdown defenseman Hal Gill to a lower leg injury suffered in the third period of Game 5 on Saturday, the Canadiens got an incredible performance from veteran defenseman Jaroslav Spacek who had been sidelined for two weeks with a viral infection.
Spacek, 36, came into the lineup and it seemed as if he never missed a beat. He scored Montreal’s third goal with a hard low slap shot from the blue line. The Montreal crowd gave a lengthy standing ovation to their heroes, who had retaken the lead 3–2 after being comprehensively outplayed for the first half of the game.
Spacek was named the game’s second star.
The first and third stars are the guys mainly responsible for having brought the Habs this far. Michael Cammalleri, who scored two goals, his 10th and 11th of the playoffs, was named the game’s first star.
“I think we really like each other in this room. As we go along, you start to earn each other’s trust,” said Cammalleri.
And Jaroslav Halak, who stopped 34 of 37 shots was the game’s third star.
“The crowd was unbelievable,” said Halak.
“Spacek coming back, we didn’t know what to expect. He made some great plays out there.”
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma was almost at a loss for words when asked how to deal with Halak’s incredible play.
“I did see Halak’s record when he gets a lot of shots on net,” Bylsma managed to say. Halak has an outstanding 16–1–1 record when he faces 35 or more shots.
Like another great Canadiens goalie Patrick Roy, Halak ought to thank his posts for saving him three times when the Habs were down a man in the second period.
Maxim Lapierre came up with the goal of the game after a fine solo effort. The Habs center worked down the left wing, outhustled and beat Alex Goligoski before swinging in front of the net and sliding a low shot past a screened Marc-Andre Fleury.
Quebec native Lapierre is starting to write one of those dream playoffs stories a la Claude Lemieux circa 1986. Here is a fourth line center, that statistically, had his worst season of his young career. But in these playoffs, his three goals have shown revelations of his talent and desire.
“After a difficult year, he has really elevated his game in the playoffs,” said Montreal coach Jacques Martin in his usual stoic manner.
That fourth goal for Montreal proved to be the winner midway through the third period. Bill Guerin deflected a Sergei Gonchar shot to make it 4–3 with just over a minute left but Montreal hung on for the win.
“It’s a great effort. We played well defensively and we took our chances,” said Lapierre in an interview with RDS.
Lapierre reflected his teammates’ reaction to Spacek’s inspired play.
“He [Spacek] played really well for us. We were teasing him after the first period.”
He also credited his teammates for his goal. “On my goal, if the guys didn’t create traffic in front of goal, there’s no goal.”
Let’s not forget in all of this, the play of young defenseman P.K. Subban. Subban, who only played in two regular season games for Montreal, played 29 minutes on Wednesday night. He has been stellar in filling in for the injured Andrei Markov, Montreal’s top defenseman.
“In Gill’s absence, certain players have to play more minutes. In the third [period], we shortened the bench. Certain players had more ice time, but they handled it well,” said Martin.
Sidney Crosby scored his first goal of the series and added an assist in a losing effort.
Without Hal Gill, Montreal had to be concerned about how to shut down the Canadian superstar. But Subban proved he could hang with the game’s best and not be intimidated. Crosby tried his stop and turn spin moves but Subban kept him from creating too much havoc.
At the end of the game, it was quite clear that the Habs continue to be under Crosby’s skin.
With the Game 6 win, Montreal is now 4–0 when facing elimination in the playoffs. The Habs have only allowed one power play goal in 19 chances in do-or-die games.
Flyers Blank Bruins
The Philadelphia Flyers have all the momentum going their way as they shut out the Boston Bruins in Boston 4–0 in Game 5. The Bruins lead the series 3–2 with Game 6 in Philly coming up on Wednesday.
Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton combined for the shutout. Simon Gagner scored twice for the Flyers who are trying to win the series after losing the first three games.
Boston is now reeling from the loss of David Krejci and Marco Sturm.