MONTREAL -- It is a mantra repeated in locker rooms around the NHL throughout the season. Whether a team has won three straight games or lost five in a row, every team is always trying to find the same equilibrium, and they all use the same terms to describe it.
Never too high. Never too low.
The Montreal Canadiens entered the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers coming off a massive high, beating the archrival Boston Bruins in their building in Game 7 to earn the right to play the game they played Saturday afternoon.
The Canadiens, it would appear, were a little too high.
The Rangers were the sharper team right from the drop of the puck and were rewarded for it in a 7-2 blowout win in Game 1 of the series at Bell Centre, stealing the home-ice advantage from the Canadiens.
"You never want to lose a game, but it's going to bring us back to earth," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "We, as a group, have to be ready to compete and play every night if we want to have a chance to win.
"So we put that game behind us, we've got to move forward, but that's a good lesson."
MONTREAL -- New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist skated onto the Bell Centre's frozen stage Saturday for the first time in more than two years with a bleak history to his credit in the Montreal Canadiens' raucous arena.
Lundqvist entered Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final with a 4-5-2 record, a 3.87 goals-against average and .876 save percentage in Montreal. But the Rangers' 7-2 win consigned those bad numbers to the history books.
"I'm going to be honest with you, I felt good coming into the game and, yeah, you guys like to talk about it, you like to ask me about it," said Lundqvist, who made 20 saves in his first start in Montreal since Jan. 14, 2012. "I haven't played here in a while, but it's still the same game. Last time I played here, we had a different team, and I think I've grown as a goalie as well."
Viktor Tikhonov scored twice in the first period to help Russia beat Latvia 4-1 on Saturday to remain unbeaten in Group B preliminary-round play at the World Hockey Championship at Minsk Arena in Belarus.
After Miks Indrasis put Latvia (3-2, 9 points) in front by scoring 7:30 into the game, Tikhonov scored twice and set up a goal by Sergei Shirokov to give Russia a 3-1 lead after one period. Tikhonov, a first-round pick by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2008, has six goals and 12 points during a four-game point streak in the tournament.
"First and foremost, this is a team game and one player can't do anything by himself," Tikhonov told the IIHF website. "It all depends on your partners and the most important thing is that we won."
MONTREAL -- Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin didn't come out and say it Saturday, but he certainly made no effort to hide that coach Michel Therrien can expect a contract extension at the end of this season.
Speaking 90 minutes prior to the Canadiens facing the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final at Bell Centre, Bergevin showered his coach with praise while Therrien was about 100 feet away in the dressing room preparing his team.
The hiring of Therrien to return behind the Canadiens bench was one of Bergevin's first moves as GM, and it was hardly met with enthusiasm by fans. However, the lukewarm reaction to the move did not faze Bergevin, and he remained convinced Therrien was the right man for the job.
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild's season has been over for a few days but they were still coming to terms with how it ended when players emptied their lockers Friday.
Tied 1-1 in overtime with the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Second Round, Patrick Kane scored the series-clinching goal after a dump-in attempt took a goofy hop off a stanchion behind the Wild net and landed on his stick. Just like that, Minnesota's season was over. Disappointing as the ending was, it was a successful year when the Wild's youngsters made major strides.
"We played some good hockey and it was a great series and it could have gone either way," forward Nino Niederreiter said. "But obviously it's a bitter end."
One thing is for certain: The Wild took a step forward this season, with its prospects leading the way.
"I believe that there are a lot of positives," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "But I also am realistic that it's really hard [to keep improving]. And so we should look forward to that challenge."
LONDON, Ontario – Antoine Bibeau didn't make it onto NHL Central Scouting's goalie rankings in the middle of last season.
He was listed as the ninth-ranked netminder when the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted him in the sixth round (No. 172) in the 2013 NHL Draft.
But today, junior hockey's hottest goalie no longer needs to worry about being overlooked.
In leading the Val-d'Or Foreurs to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League title with an upset over the high-powered Baie-Comeau Drakkar, Bibeau faced an average of 40 shots per game in the last four contests of the seven-game series. After that onslaught, Bibeau topped his own high playoff standards in the opening game of the Memorial Cup championship.
The Chicago Blackhawks eliminated the Los Angeles Kings in five games in the 2013 Western Conference Final on their way to the Stanley Cup. To have a chance to become the first repeat champion in 16 years, Chicago will have to beat L.A. again.
The Blackhawks and Kings, who each finished third in their division, begin the best-of-7 rematch Sunday at United Center (3 p.m. ET; NBC, TSN, RDS).
The Blackhawks have been off since eliminating the Minnesota Wild by winning Game 6 of their Western Conference Second Round series in overtime. The Kings had a quick turnaround; Los Angeles flew to Chicago after ousting the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of their second-round series Friday.
The Conn Smythe Trophy can't be won halfway through the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but MVP-type performances go a long way in determining which teams are still competing for the Stanley Cup.
The Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks are still alive in the playoffs because of total team efforts, great comebacks, Game 7 wins on the road and spellbinding individual performances from several star players.
With two rounds in the books, here are five players in contention for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
ANAHEIM -- The ultimate result of the NHL's first Freeway Series became known well before the final minutes of Game 7 at Honda Center on Friday.
Most of the fans of the Anaheim Ducks who lingered despite the lopsided score in a 6-2 victory for the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 of their Western Conference Second Round series were probably there for one reason: The chance to say goodbye to Teemu Selanne.
Selanne announced before the season that 2013-14 would be his last. This was not the end he was hoping for.
"It was very disappointing. I knew it was either going to be an unbelievable party or disappointment," Selanne said. "This time it wasn't the party. It's very disappointing. It's a funny game. We had our chances. We just couldn't take advantage of them. That's the way it goes."
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You could see out there that everybody was willing to compete, to sacrifice, even blocking shots to the end. Even in the third when we were up 5-0, guys were still working hard and blocking shots That's a nice feeling also for the future.