MONTREAL -- The never-say-die Canadiens are still alive, finding a way to fight against all odds into Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Somehow, these Canadiens seem to forget their lot in life, forget they are missing key personnel, that they can't score on a regular basis and are playing the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, after barely surviving a grueling seven-game series against top-seeded Washington in the first round.
They have forgotten their way to the precipice of the unlikeliest berth in the Eastern Conference Finals after taking a season-saving 4-3 victory Monday at an incredibly loud Bell Centre.
Michael Cammalleri scored two huge goals -- giving him a League-best 11 in the postseason -- and returning defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, out for nine games, tallied in the second period. Meanwhile, goalie Jaroslav Halak, the bedrock of Montreal's belief that they can beat anybody, made 34 saves.
"We were good enough and as good as we needed to be," said Cammalleri, who opened the scoring just 73 seconds into the game. "What an opportunity now. Here we go -- Game 7!"
Yes, Game 7; Wednesday night at Mellon Arena (7 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC, RDS) with Pittsburgh holding one final chance to put a stake in the heart of this Canadiens team that fashions a miracle in almost every game this spring.
"This is one game to see who goes to the Eastern Conference Finals," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said after his team blew a lead and lost for the third time in this series.
"They have experience and they are going to go back and talk about their Game 7 against Washington. We have to mentally refocus and regroup and go back to Mellon Arena and put our best game out for Game 7."
Montreal certainly put forth its best in Game 6 -- under trying circumstances -- to extend this series 48 more hours.
The Canadiens were without top defenseman Hal Gill, out of the lineup after suffering a leg laceration in the third period of Game 5. In the absence of Andrei Markov, injured in the series opener, Gill emerged as the team's most reliable defenseman, doing the lion's share of the work in shutting down Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, who did not have a goal in the first five games of this series.
But without Gill hanging all over him, Crosby got untracked, scoring the Penguins first goal just six minutes after Cammalleri opened the scoring.
Then, Kris Letang scored a little more than minutes into the second for a 2-1 lead and the clock seemed very close to striking midnight for this postseason's Cinderella.
Especially as Pittsburgh tried to put the game out of reach, tried to silence a Bell Centre crowd that was willing the home side to greatness. The Penguins stormed Halak early in the second period. They had quality chance after quality chance. Jordan Staal hit the post twice; Evgeni Malkin struck iron once. Others were denied by a flipping and flopping Halak.
"We just haven't been able to get that extra (goal) unfortunately," Crosby lamented.
Montreal made Pittsburgh pay for that failure in Game 6.
Cammalleri tied the game to relieve the pressure and then Spacek put Montreal ahead, 3-2 just 2:30 later.
The defenseman, who had been out with an unspecified illness, took a pass from Scott Gomez and waited patiently for traffic to form in front of Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
Fleury, who made 21 saves, never saw the shot that beat him and Montreal was on its way, thanks to an unlikely replacement for the missing Gill.
In his first game back in the fray, Spacek played more than 18 minutes, was a plus-1 and blocked 3 shots. But those are the stories of the Montreal postseason.
"I know I can compete with these guys," Spacek said. "It's Game 6 in the second round, Stanley Cup champions; it's not easy -- elimination around the corner. You just want to go out there and bring your ‘A' game and I try my best."
Montreal's best was good enough on this night.
Maxim Lapierre scored a fourth goal with an impressive solo effort to give Montreal a two-goal lead, and it ended up being the game-winner after Bill Guerin scored with Fleury pulled in the game's last two minutes.
So it all comes down to Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, a game that will define the legacy of both teams and will end a masterful series between two very different teams.
Pittsburgh has always meant to be here, on the verge of a third-straight berth in the Eastern Conference Finals. Montreal, though, is living a dream, one it doesn't plan to wake up from anytime soon.
"For us, it is the reality," Cammalleri said. "If you pinch yourself, you are beat. I remember when you first come in the League, if you start sitting around and staring in awe and catching flies, you'll be out pretty quick.
"Now we belong and we're having fun. Now we have an opportunity to go knock these guys off in Game 7; so let's go enjoy it."
Shift of the Game: Montreal ended the second period with a 34-second power play and did everything but score on it. Michael Cammalleri, who already had two goals, was denied by a slick save from Marc-Andre Fleury and then fired a shot wide before forcing Fleury to make another save. Finally, Scott Gomez had a look at a wide-open net, but fired high. Although the Canadiens did not score, it sent the message that they were not content with the one-goal lead they were holding at the time. At the horn, the Habs were sent off to a rousing, spine-tingling cheer.
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1 - 0 MTL
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