Penguins beat Canadiens; Habs to face Bruins in 1st round
Malkin clinches Art Ross Trophy as league's top scorer
The Montreal Canadiens will play the Boston Bruins in the first round of the NHL playoffs.
Thanks to a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Bell Centre on Saturday night, one of the league's longest-running post-season feuds will see a 32nd airing with a likely opener Thursday night in Boston on Hockey Night in Canada.
Montreal (41-30-11) clinched its playoff spot in a scrappy 5-4 overtime loss against the Bruins on Thursday. The bad blood that was built up in a game that saw 76 penalty minutes will play out in another best-of-seven series between the historic rivals.
The Habs have won 24 of 31 playoff series against Boston, including the past three — most recently, a seven-gamer in last season's quarterfinals.
"There won't be as much pressure on us this year — we're going in as the underdog and hopefully we can surprise some people," said Montreal goalie Carey Price.
Boston won its first Eastern Conference regular-season crown since 2002, the year the club was eliminated in six games — by Montreal.
This season has been a different story. The Canadiens have not won in their last five games against the Bruins — the last victory coming in a 4-3 shootout on Oct. 15, 2008.
Penguins vs. Flyers
The Penguins (45-28-9) are now set to face the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round, with home ice advantage still up for grabs as the Flyers face the New York Rangers on Sunday.
"Both teams know each other pretty well," Sidney Crosby said of the matchup in an interview with Hockey Night in Canada. "There's already a rivalry there and I don't expect the playoffs to be any different."
Maxime Talbot scored the short-handed game-winner for Pittsburgh midway through the third period on Saturday.
Montreal looked poised to take the lead with the man-advantage but things fell apart.
Alex Kovalev tried to flip the puck back to Mathieu Schneider and it bounced over his stick.
That gave Pascal Dupuis and Talbot a two-on-one. Dupuis passed the puck across the slot to Talbot, who banged it past a sprawling Price at 9:46.
On the same penalty kill, Kris Letang brought the puck over the blue-line and took a slap shot from a bad angle that beat Price at 10:41.
Price had previously kept the Canadiens in it, and made a total of 38 saves. The 21-year-old showed his playoff readiness, coming up with two huge saves on two separate Pittsburgh passing plays toward the end of the second period.
On both occasions, Price showed strong lateral movement to stretch across the net, robbing Pittsburgh of what looked like sure goals.
Montreal started slowly, allowing Pittsburgh to take the early advantage.
"We didn't have enough emotion early," said Canadiens coach Bob Gainey. "I wish our team played better."
Sergei Gonchar got the puck through to the net from the blue-line and it was poked through Price's pads by Evgeni Malkin, who had gotten behind the Montreal defence.
Malkin's goal gives him 113 points on the season and clinched the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's top scorer over Alex Ovechkin, who had two points for Washington earlier in the day.
The Canadiens caught a break before the first period closed.
Roman Hamrlik threw a puck on the net from just inside the blue-line that hit Penguins defenceman Hal Gill and bounced past Marc-Andre Fleury at 17:29.