One of the best things in sports, an NHL Game 7. Monday night's Montreal Canadiens-Boston Bruins Game 7 didn't quite live up to the best of them, but it was loud and electric before the Habs took control in the second period on home ice. After that it was just loud.
Midway through the second period, Canadiens defenseman Mark Streit took a pass from Maxim Lapierre, benefited from Bruins captain Zdeno Chara playing the puck and not the man, and made a nifty move on goalie Tim Thomas. The goal gave the Canadiens a 2-0 lead and sent the Bell Centre into even more of a frenzy than it had already been in.
The Bruins had controlled the action early, but it was the home team that scored the only goal of the first period when Canadien Mike Komisarek's shot bounced off Bruin Petteri Nokelainen past a helpless Thomas. The Canadiens took control in the second.
Andrei Kostitsyn put the game and series away five minutes after Streit's goal, at 15:13 of the second period, by somehow getting a shot off in traffic in the slot, zipping it through the legs of defenseman Mark Stuart, who screened Thomas. All that remained at that point was for Montreal not to blow it. That may not have been as easy as it sounds. Boston had scored four third-period goals in each of the last two games, though it hadn't been down three in either.
The Canadiens, who had coughed up a 3-1 lead in the series, have never lost a series they led 3-1, which is one of those things they like to say on TV but means nothing to the current bunch. The last time the Canadiens even had a 3-1 series lead to lose was in the Eastern Conference finals in 1993. Precisely one current Canadien was on that team, Patrice Brisebois. Three others were rookies with other teams.
Well, it's still true. Montreal didn't blow it. Twenty-year-old rookie goaltender Carey Price, who let in all eight of those third-period goals in Games 5 and 6, nailed down the Game 7 shutout. Kostitsyn and his brother Sergei each added garbage-time goals for the old fraternal hat trick and a 5-0 victory.
The Habs went on to win the Stanley Cup in 1993, having dispatched the New York Islanders in Game 5 of that conference final. So there you go. Every time in the last 15 years that the Canadiens get a 3-1 lead in a series, they go on to win the Cup.
In the other game Monday, the Washington Capitals pulled off a huge comeback, scrambling back from a 2-0 deficit on the road in their Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers and winning 4-2. Alex Ovechkin, the league's scoring leader, who had been held scoreless in his first playoff series, scored twice as the Caps forced a Game 7.
Washington, like the Bruins, fell behind in the series 3-1 before winning Games 5 and 6. But unlike Boston, the Capitals get to play Game 7 at home, which they'll do Tuesday night. If the Capitals complete the comeback by winning Tuesday, they'll play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round, a first-ever playoff showdown between the NHL's two brightest young stars, Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.
If the Flyers win, they'll play the Canadiens and the Penguins will play the New York Rangers.
Caps-Flyers will be one of two Game 7s Tuesday, the other being the Calgary Flames at the San Jose Sharks in the last game of the Western Conference first round. The Detroit Red Wings, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars have all moved on, the latter two from a lower seed. The Flames would make it three series out of four won by the lower seed if they win.
It's fun to talk hockey, now that the weather's warming up. I don't think it'll shock anyone around here when I say that I'm just warming up myself, just getting up to speed on the teams still alive. In recent years, as the playoffs have gotten going, I've found myself wishing I'd followed the regular season more closely so I'd have a better grasp on who's been doing what.
But I never find myself thinking that way during the regular season, so it just goes by without too much interference from me.
The good part of that is that once the playoffs get under way, I get to enjoy that new-season excitement, like with baseball in early April or football in September. Hey, look, they're playing hockey! Three Game 7s in the first round is a nice bonus. That hasn't happened since 2004, which is three years in hockeyworld.
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Victory riot inflation [PERMALINK]
Revelers torched five police cars in the celebration following the Canadiens' Game 7 win, the Canadian press reported.
Torching police cars after a first-round victory? Come on, people.
If you ask me, this is the latest example of our everybody-gets-a-trophy culture. It used to be the home team had to win a championship before fans felt free to loot, riot and set police cars on fire in celebration. A college football team beating its archrival might qualify, but only under special circumstances, like a big upset or a No. 1 ranking being on the line.
I trace this riot inflation to 1994, when fans in Vancouver, B.C., rioted after the Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. Look how far we've come in less than 15 years: looting and rioting after a first-round win.
And in Montreal, no less, where one would think the fans would know how to act like they've been there before.
Listen up, sports fans. Let's try to have a little decorum, shall we? No torching police cars until your team has won the championship.
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