Canadiens fall short in losing Cup Final to Lightning

Dismissed throughout the playoffs, the Montreal Canadiens saw their stirring run finally come to an end.

Montreal was the last team to clinch a playoff spot, with the worst record of the 16 qualifiers, and became the last team eliminated following a 1-0 loss to the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the final on Wednesday night.

Brendan Gallagher, in between wiping tears from his eyes, opened the Canadiens post-game Zoom conference apologizing for being overly emotional.

“It’s hard right now. Sorry,” Gallagher said. “Sorry, I’ll try and answer. We’ve got so many players that worked their entire career to get to this point. and it’s a tough pill to swallow.”

Immediately following the game, Corey Perry knelt in disbelief on one knee. Shea Weber stared off into the distance from the bench.

“Very proud. This group has a lot of character,” Weber said. “Went up against a lot of adversity and we proved a lot of people wrong.”

Interim coach Dominic Ducharme revealed several players were playing with injuries, including Weber (thumb), Gallagher (groin and more) and Tyler Toffoli (groin).

“A lot of guys banged up. But they bled. They fought. They never quit,” Ducharme said.

For all the grit and perseverance the Canadiens displayed in overcoming a 3-1 first-round series deficit to Toronto and with Ducharme sent into self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, Montreal came up short against a sturdier and more accomplished opponent.

Ross Colton’s redirection of David Savard’s pass with 6:33 left in the second period clinched Tampa Bay the Cup, but the turning point might well have come with 1 second left in Game 2. That’s when Blake Coleman scored the go-ahead goal by diving in to chip in a shot past Carey Price in an eventual 3-1 win in which the Canadiens thoroughly outplayed the Lightning.

With the loss on Wednesday, the Canadiens extended Canada’s Stanley Cup drought, which dates to Montreal last winning its 24th title in 1993. Montreal was the sixth Canadian team to reach the final, and first since the Vancouver Canucks squandered a 3-2 series lead in losing to Boston in 2011.

With four “Clydesdale” defensemen on the back end, and the addition of Stanley Cup-winning experienced leadership, general manager Marc Bergevin built the Canadiens with an eye on the playoffs.

He and the team came so close in what became Montreal’s deepest playoff run in 28 years, and for a group that was dismissed at the start of each and every round.

Bergevin retooled the team by adding championship experience by signing Perry and Toffoli in free agency, and acquiring Joel Edmundson in a trade. Edmundson solidified Montreal’s core of Big Four defensemen, rounded out by Weber, Ben Chiarot and Jeff Petry.

Not done yet, Bergevin acquired Stanley Cup and Olympic gold-medal winning forward Eric Staal in a trade with Buffalo in March.

In the playoffs, Montreal looked nothing like the team that closed the season 0-3-2 while missing Price and Gallagher to injuries. This was also a team that had to overcome the distraction of a COVID-19 outbreak to pause its season and a coaching shakeup, with Ducharme promoted from his assistant’s role after Claude Julien was fired in February.

Come the playoffs, the Canadiens were transformed into a focused, four-line, opportunistic team which fed off Price shaking off an inconsistent season and regaining a calm, puck-smothering focus in net.

Montreal was catapulted by overtime wins in Games 5 and 6 against Toronto to knock out the Maple Leafs in Game 7. Shrugged off again, the Canadiens then swept the Winnipeg Jets in the North Division final and overcame being outplayed by Vegas in a 4-1 semifinal opener to win the series in six games.

The Canadiens remained defiant when falling behind 3-0 to the Lightning, with Josh Anderson delivering on his “we’re not finished” rallying cry to score twice, including in overtime, in a 3-2 win in Game 4.

Montreal avoided becoming the first team swept in the final round since Washington lost to Detroit in 1998. And the Canadiens denied the Lightning from joining the 1989 Calgary Flames and 1928 New York Rangers in becoming the third team to be awarded the Cup in Montreal.

The playoffs showed the Canadiens have a promising future with the combination of second-year forward Nick Suzuki and rookie Cole Caufield, who has appeared in more playoff games (20) than regular season (10).

Questions remain, however, for a team with aging stars in Price (34 next year) and Weber (36), and key players eligible to become free agents, including top defensive forward Phillip Danault and the entire fourth line of Perry, Staal and Joel Armia.

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    Predators-Avalanche postponed due to water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Friday’s game between the Nashville Predators and the Colorado Avalanche has been postponed because of a water main break that has soaked the downtown arena.

    The NHL said the water main break has “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store.

    The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    A makeup date for the  game will be announced later.

    Also, a decision on whether to postpone the Predators’ home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets will be made later.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue in Nashville for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.

    Carrier, Pietrangelo rally Golden Knights past Canucks 5-4

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Pietrangelo scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period and had two assists as the Vegas Golden Knights rallied past the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 on Monday night.

    William Carrier scored twice and Mark Stone had a goal and an assist for the Golden Knights (15-4-1), who overcame a 4-2 deficit in the third. Reilly Smith also scored, while Jack Eichel and Alec Martinez each had two assists.

    Logan Thompson made 25 saves for Vegas, which had a go-ahead goal wiped out in the third but still kept pushing.

    “I don’t think that’s really how we drew it up,” Pietrangelo said. “A lot of emotions. Obviously we score and then it gets taken back. But I’ll tell you what, it’s not easy to win on the road and you’ve got to give credit to our group – we were resilient no matter what happened.”

    Vancouver (6-10-3) got a goal and an assist from Andrei Kuzmenko. Bo Horvat, Luke Schenn and Elias Pettersson also scored, and Quinn Hughes had two assists.

    Thatcher Demko stopped 33 shots for the Canucks, who gave up a multi-goal lead in a loss for the seventh time this season.

    “Inexcusable,” defenseman Luke Schenn said.

    “That’s nothing to do with systems or what the coaches are telling us. That comes down to battle and compete and, we’re getting outmuscled and outbattled in front of the net and in the blue paint,” he added. “Everyone just needs to be better in front of (Demko) there and that’s where games are won and lost.”

    Vegas appeared to take the lead midway through the third period, but the goal was disallowed because of a bizarre bounce.

    A clearing attempt by the Canucks hit the lens of a camera sticking through one of the media holes in the glass, knocking a piece of it onto the ice. Play continued at that end and Stone put the puck in the net. But after a video review, the goal was overturned and an official said the whistle should have been blown to stop play.

    About four minutes later, Pietrangelo did give the Golden Knights a 5-4 advantage when he collected a puck from Stone and sent a backhand past Demko from the low slot at 14:14.

    Vancouver scored three straight goals early in the third to go up 4-2 before Vegas roared back.

    “We let them score one, kind of changed the momentum quick and then they scored another one. So I don’t know,” Pettersson said. “We just can’t let that happen. It’s been happening way too many times this season.”

    Carrier made it 4-3 with his second of the night at 6:54, sending in a rebound from the top of the crease for his sixth of the season.

    “Once they scored one it was like, `Uh oh, here we go again.’ And we’re back on our heels and they came at us, and then they got three,” Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau said.

    Smith shoveled a puck into the Vancouver net at 8:57 to tie it.

    “We just win some pucks below their goal line and get it to the front of the net and force them to defend an area they haven’t done as good a job as they’d probably like this year there,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We didn’t do a very good job to start a third there, and then it snowballs a little bit. You have a little life and you get a couple more pucks to the net and a second chance.”

    ON A ROLL

    Horvat drew the Canucks even 1:47 into the third with a wrist shot from the hash marks. Vancouver’s captain has 15 goals, second-most in the NHL behind Connor McDavid (16). … Brock Boeser‘s assist on the first goal of the game extended his point streak to seven games (two goals, six assists).

    MARKING MILESTONES

    Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault played his 500th regular-season NHL game. Now in his 10th season, the 31-year-old center suited up for Columbus, Tampa Bay and Florida before Vegas selected him in the 2017 expansion draft. … Vancouver defenseman Ethan Bear made his 200th regular-season appearance.

    UP NEXT

    Golden Knights: Host the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday in the opener of a three-game homestand.

    Canucks: Begin a three-game trip Wednesday at Colorado.