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Canadiens to play Golden Knights in Stanley Cup Semifinals

Montreal swept Winnipeg to advance; Vegas eliminated Colorado

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

The Montreal Canadiens will play the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Semifinals.

The Golden Knights advanced with a 6-3 win against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Second Round on Thursday.

The Canadiens have won seven straight games. They swept the Jets in the second round after eliminating the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the first round.

"We believe in ourselves," Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said Friday. "Not too many people did starting the playoffs and we don't care if it changes or not. We're controlling what we can control, but when the puck drops we'll be ready to go. ... Different seasons for everyone. I mean, we all played in our own divisions, different style of play or different teams that you played often. But that's part of the challenge for everyone right now.

"It's more about ourselves and how we feel about things. But having people doubting you, I always personally like to prove people wrong, that when people think that we cannot do something, it's always nice, it's another layer where you can gain energy or another challenge. But it comes from within. Everything around that can be looked at, something that can spark your team. But at the end of the day it's really inside, what's going on in the group and the way they want to handle things and the way we want to face challenges and face adversity."

The Golden Knights eliminated the Minnesota Wild in seven games in the first round and won four straight against the Avalanche, who did not lose four consecutive games during the regular season..

Vegas will have home-ice advantage in the best-of-7 series. Game 1 is Monday.

"We know we have a good team," Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "We've battled hard all season to get to this point. Both series, Minnesota went to seven and they had a good team, and Colorado also. We had to earn this, work hard and get to where we are right now. It feels good. I think we deserve it the way guys battled those first two rounds. Montreal has been really good throughout the playoffs and it'll be another big challenge ahead of us."

Tyler Toffoli leads the Canadiens with 10 points (four goals, six assists) this postseason. Nick Suzuki has scored eight points (four goals, four assists), and Joel Armia (four goals, three assists) and Eric Staal (one goal, six assists) each has scored seven points. Carey Price is 8-3 with a 1.97 goals-against average, .935 save percentage and one shutout.

William Karlsson leads the Golden Knights in the postseason with 11 points (four goals, seven assists). Four players (Jonathan Marchessault, Max Pacioretty, Alex Pietrangelo, Mark Stone) have scored eight points each. Fleury is 7-4 with a 1.81 goals-against average and .925 save percentage. Robin Lehner lost Game 1 to the Avalanche 7-1.

The Canadiens (Scotia North Division) did not play the Golden Knights (Honda West Division) this season because of temporary division realignment due to COVID-19. On Sunday, Canada announced its decision to allow NHL teams to cross the border into and from the United States for games beginning with the semifinals under a modified quarantine.

The Canadiens defeated the Golden Knights in each of two games played last season. Armia, Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar were among six Canadiens who scored two points (one goal, one assist for each). Price made 30 saves in a 5-4 shootout win at Vegas on Jan. 18, 2020.

The Golden Knights were led by Reilly Smith (one goal, two assists) and Shea Theodore (three assists) with three points each against the Canadiens. Pacioretty, a former Montreal captain, had a goal and an assist. Fleury, a Quebec native, was 0-0-2, allowing nine goals on 61 shots (4.35 GAA, .852 save percentage).

"Every team that's still around right now is going to experience the same challenge, haven't played any of them, don't know what they're like, just from watching on the TV and video, so it's going to be important to have a good start," Suzuki said. "You want to bring a ton of energy. We've started series well so you just need to keep that up."

The Canadiens have never played the Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Montreal, which won two playoff series in the same season for the first time since advancing to the Eastern Conference Final in 2014 (lost to New York Rangers in six games), has not advanced to the Stanley Cup Final since winning the Cup in 1993.

"[1993] was a great team," Ducharme said. "The team really jelled together and went through some adversity (losing their first two games of the playoffs) against Quebec before getting on a roll. But every year is different and we're not thinking about that kind of thing inside. We're focused on the moment. I know from the outside, maybe you can see some things that are the same. But we have a long way to go."

The defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning play the New York Islanders in the other semifinal.

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