MONTREAL -- A first-place finish in the Atlantic Division is no consolation to the Montreal Canadiens after they were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the New York Rangers, who finished fourth in the Metropolitan Division.
Montreal went 16-7-1 after coach Claude Julien replaced Michel Therrien on Feb. 14. The Canadiens, who won the Atlantic with 103 points, lost a tightly-contested Eastern Conference First Round series in six games to the Rangers, who had 102 points.
"The difference between winning and losing is just so marginal," Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher said. "They did a couple more things than we did; it wasn't for a lack of effort from our group."
Here are five reasons why the Canadiens were eliminated:
1. MAX PACIORETTY FAILS TO SCORE
Pacioretty did not score a goal, and the veteran forward was held to one assist in the six-game series loss after leading Montreal in the regular season with 67 points (35 goals, 32 assists). It wasn't for lack of trying; Pacioretty's 28 shots on goal in the series were the most of anyone in the playoffs when Montreal was eliminated.
"My job is to bury those chances," the Canadiens captain said. "I take full responsibility for not scoring a goal in this series. But the chances were there."
Video: MTL@NYR, Gm6: Lundqvist turns aside Petry, Pacioretty
2. CAREY PRICE OUTPLAYED BY HENRIK LUNDQVIST
Price, the Canadiens goaltender, allowed 12 goals in six playoff games, but was unable to steal a win for Montreal, unlike Lundqvist, who recorded a 31-save shutout in New York's 2-0 win in Game 1 at Bell Centre.
"Yeah, it's disappointing on my end that I couldn't make all the timely saves that we needed at the prime opportunities," Price said. "That's the way it goes in the playoffs."
3. FALLING SHORT AFTER STRONG STARTS
The Canadiens struggled to score, especially in the latter stages, in a series of close games that began with New York making a 1-0 lead stand up for 49:00 before forward Michael Grabner scored into an empty net to seal a 2-0 win in Game 1.
The Rangers protected a 2-1 lead in Game 4 for the final 35:32, Game 5 was tied for 35:54 until center Mika Zibanejad's overtime goal gave New York a 3-2 win, and they held onto a 2-1 lead for 26:11 in Game 6 until center Derek Stepan's empty-net goal with 18 seconds remaining sealed Montreal's fate.
"I felt like we kept getting off to good starts and then they started taking it to us and we were just sitting back on our heels," Gallagher said.
Video: MTL@NYR, Gm6: Stepan pads lead with long empty-netter
4. NO LACK OF EFFORT, NOT ENOUGH LUCK
During the series, Julien said a long playoff run needs some good luck for a strong effort to produce the desired results.
"If you look at our scoring chances, we looked at it after games, and we probably had more than the [Rangers], but they made the most out of theirs," Julien said. "So the undoing was the fact that we probably need a bit of luck to go with our efforts, and those two combined sometimes gives you the breaks you're looking for. It was a tough series, but it was a series where I really thought our players worked hard and competed as hard as they could."
5. NO MARGIN FOR ERROR
Forward Alexander Radulov, who led the Canadiens with seven points (two goals, five assists), said their elimination came down to better execution by the Rangers.
"Playoffs is all about who makes less mistakes," Radulov said. "I think we made a little bit more than them, and it cost us the series."
Video: MTL@NYR, Gm6: Julien discusses Habs' elimination