Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 1
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Centre Bell, Montréal, QC
While the Montréal Canadiens would be happy to celebrate their first conference title in ages, they finished the regular season with their eyes turned toward a making an unexpected run at a record 25th Stanley Cup.
Chris Higgins scored twice and Mark Streit had a goal and an assist as Montréal beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 Saturday night to finish their schedule atop the Eastern Conference.
“I think it’s been a dream year,” said coach Guy Carbonneau, whose team completed the regular season with a 47-25-10 record for 104 points.
The Canadiens have a two-point lead on second-place Pittsburgh, which plays its final game Sunday in Philadelphia. Montréal will claim its first conference title in 19 years if the Penguins, who also have 47 wins, lose to the Flyers.
“Obviously it would be great, but they don’t really hang conference titles in this rink, they raise Stanley Cup banners,” Canadiens goalie Carey Price said. “It would be kind of nice to get it but everybody knows what the ultimate prize is.”
Price stopped 26 shots, finishing his rookie season with a 24-12-3 record and three shutouts in 41 games.
“It seems like I’m climbing the hill pretty fast, so hopefully I can keep climbing,” said the 20-year-old goalie, who was chosen fifth overall by Montréal in the 2005 draft.
Regardless of whether they finish first or second overall in the East, Montréal will face Boston in the opening round of the playoffs as a result of the Bruins’ 3-0 loss to Buffalo.
The Canadiens will host the series opener Thursday at the Bell Centre.
Mark Bell scored late in the second for Toronto, which missed the playoffs for a third straight season. The Maple Leafs finished last in the Northeast Division and 12th overall in the East with a 36-35-11 mark and 83 points.
Rarely-used backup Andrew Raycroft made 33 saves for Toronto, though it was the three shots that he didn’t stop that pretty much summed up his dismal season.
“I’m not going to think about hockey for a while,” Raycroft said. “I won’t be watching playoff games, I won’t be watching highlights, I won’t be watching talk shows, I won’t be listening to the radio. I’ll be as far away as I can get.”
Streit opened the scoring 9 minutes into the second when his soft wrist shot from the blue line somehow got between Raycroft’s blocker and his right pad.
“The first goal was just a matter of him not being in the net,” Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice said.
Higgins made it a 2-0 lead to the delight of the crowd of 21,273 – Montréal’s 141st consecutive sellout – when his shot from the right side went in off the tip of Raycroft’s glove for his 26th goal at 14:03.
Bell drew the Maple Leafs within 2-1 when he was left alone in the slot to beat Price with a quick shot for his fourth goal at 18:02.
Higgins got his second of the game – extending his career high to 27 goals – when he beat Raycroft with a quick shot during a power play 7:28 into the third on a fine setup by Bryan Smolinski.
The goal gave the Canadiens a league-high total of 262 this season, one more than Ottawa. Detroit, which hosts Chicago on Sunday to complete its schedule, is third with 253 goals.
Montréal has not led the NHL in goals since 1979-80. The Canadiens scored 328 goals that season, one more than Philadelphia.
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MTL PEN – 03:30 – Dandenault, high sticking
MTL PEN – 04:03 – Hamrlik, hooking
TOR PEN – 09:56 – Devereaux, hooking
TOR PEN – 12:10 – McCabe, hooking
TOR PEN – 04:03 – Newbury, tripping
MTL GOAL – 09:00 – Streit (Kovalev, Plekanec)
MTL GOAL – 14:03 – Higgins (Streit, O’Byrne)
TOR GOAL – 18:02 – Bell (Newbury, Blake)
TOR PEN – 05:53 – White, hooking
TOR PEN – 06:52 – Kubina, slashing
MTL PEN – 06:52 – Plekanec, interference
MTL PP GOAL – 07:29 – Higgins (Smolinski, Markov)
TOR PEN – 10:36 – McCabe, holding
TOR PEN – 12:00 – Stajan, roughing
MTL PEN – 12:00 – A. Kostitsyn, roughing
TOR PEN – 16:04 – Tucker, fighting
MTL PEN – 16:04 – Gorges, fighting
TOR PEN – 16:16 – Moore, roughing
TOR PEN – 18:12 – Kubina, cross checking
TOR PEN – 19:58 – McCabe, slashing + fighting major
MTL PEN – 19:58 – Stewart, fighting major
MTL – Price (W, 26-27)
TOR – Raycroft (L, 33-36)
SHOTS ON GOAL
MTL – 12+12+12 = 36
TOR – 8+10+9 = 27
MTL – Goaltenders: Jaroslav Halak, Carey Price. Defence: Patrice Brisebois, Josh Gorges, Roman Hamrlik, Ryan O’Byrne, Andrei Markov (A), Mark Streit. Forwards: Steve Bégin, Mathieu Dandenault, Christopher Higgins (A), Andrei Kostitsyn, Sergei Kostitsyn, Tom Kostopoulos, Alex Kovalev (C), Maxim Lapierre, Guillaume Latendresse, Tomas Plekanec, Bryan Smolinski, Gregory Stewart.
TOR – Goaltenders: Andrew Raycroft, Vesa Toskala. Defence: Tomas Kaberle (A), Staffan Kronwall, Pavel Kubina, Bryan McCabe (A), Anton Stralman, Ian White. Forwards: Mark Bell, Jason Blake, Boyd Devereaux, Dominic Moore, Kris Newbury, John Pohl, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan, Alexander Steen, Jiri Tlusty, Darcy Tucker (A), Jeremy Williams.
⭐ Christopher Higgins (MTL)
⭐⭐ Mark Streit (MTL)
⭐⭐⭐ Alex Kovalev (MTL)