WASHINGTON - What feels better than proving everyone wrong? Getting the chance to do it all over again.
As far as underdog stories go, the Canadiens pretty much have the market cornered. Facing off against the President's Trophy winners, the Habs trailed the Caps by 33 points in the regular season. Paced by Alex Ovechkin, Washington posted an incredible 318 goals - over 100 more than the Habs did in 82 games this year. But seven games later and it's the Habs that will be heading to Round 2.
"I think even before the series started, a lot of people didn't give us the chance to win even one
game," offered Jaroslav Halak, who posted a staggering 131 saves in the last three games alone. "We proved them all wrong. We showed a lot of character after being down 3-1 but now the second round is ahead of us and we've got to make sure we're ready for that."
Perhaps the secret to the Canadiens' success lies in the crucial Game 4 loss that put the Habs' backs up against the wall. The Caps found their way into the history books on Wednesday night, blowing a 3-1 lead for an NHL-record fourth time in the franchise's existence. The Habs also made a little history of their own, becoming the first No. 8 seed to ever erase such a deficit and knock off a top seed.
"We wanted to win and we knew we could
win," declared Brian Gionta
. "We knew all along. Even when we were down 3-1 in the series we knew we had a chance to win this. We played them extremely tough. Against a good team like that, you've got to come with your best. We all jelled together, we played really well together and it was a team game - that's the difference"
Fans who spent the duration of Game 7 pacing in their living rooms and begging for an insurance marker weren't alone. After watching Brooks Laich bring the Caps within one late in the third, Maxim Lapierre had his own method of willing his team to victory.
"I didn't see anything for the entire last minute of the game - I just kept my eyes shut and prayed," joked the Habs' center. "It was a major upset. To come back from 3-1 is absolutely amazing."
Still stinging from the loss, smiles were impossible to find over in the Caps' dressing room after their season had come to a grinding halt far earlier than expected.
"I would've bet my house if you'd said they would have beaten us three games in a row and that we would've scored three goals on almost 140 shots," shrugged Washington coach Bruce Boudreau in disbelief. "Give Montreal credit. We had a power play this year that after October was going close to 30% for the rest of the year and we were 1 for 33 in the series. I would have bet everything that couldn't be done, but they did it."
After seeing his season end last year at the hands of the eventual Stanley Cup champs, Boudreau knows what the Habs can expect from the Penguins in Round 2. He now also knows to never count the Canadiens out.Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.See alsoRound 2 scheduleOops... we did it again Playoff CentralThe Numbers Game - April 28