Eastern Conference Quarterfinals - 2002
Boston (1) vs Montreal (8)
In a page torn straight from David and Goliath, the eighth-seeded Canadiens were matched up against the conference-champion Bruins in the spring of 2002. Despite a 14-point gap in the standings, the Habs entered the playoffs riding high thanks to Saku Koivu’s emotional return from his season-long battle with cancer.
Winger Donald Audette got things rolling for the Canadiens in Game 1 in Boston with a pair of goals gift-wrapped by Koivu, who set up them both up in a 5-2 win over the Bruins. The top seed in the East rebounded in Game 2 with a 6-4 victory to knot the series.
Playing their first playoff game on home ice since the spring of 1998, the Canadiens don’t disappoint their fans, coming away with a 5-3 win in Game 3 to regain the series edge. The tag team of Audette and Koivu were at it again, amassing a combined two goals and four assists on the night.
Things got ugly in Game 4 at the Bell Centre. Despite holding a comfortable 5-2 lead late in the third period, the Bruins were not content with merely tying the series back up. With less than two minutes to play, Kyle McClaren catches Richard Zednik with a vicious elbow to the head. The Slovak winger, who had four goals and two assists already in the series, lay motionless before being removed from the ice on a stretcher. Zednik had played his final game of the playoffs, while his assailant was suspended for three games.
Determined to avenge their fallen teammate, Michel Therrien’s charges came out guns blazing in Game 5 at the FleetCenter, grabbing a 2-0 first-period lead on goals from Bill Lindsay and Oleg Petrov. While the Bruins pelted Jose Theodore with 36 shots over the final two periods, the Canadiens countered with only eight of their own, but still escaped with a pivotal 2-1 win.
With the chance to send the heavily-favored Bruins packing at home at the Bell Centre, the Canadiens knew that returning to Boston for Game 7 was not the way to go. Out-shot 35-18 by the Bruins, the Habs still managed to notch a 2-1 series-clinching win, becoming only the sixth bottom seed to ever upset a top seed. Only one team has since managed the rare feat.