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Five reasons Canadiens were eliminated from playoffs

by Sean Farrell /

The Montreal Canadiens' season came to an end against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Second Round in much the same way as Montreal ended the Ottawa Senators' season in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After winning two straight elimination games, the Canadiens ran out of comebacks in Game 6 of the second round to lose the best-of-7 series it once trailed 3-0. Montreal had a 3-0 lead in the first round against Ottawa and lost the next two games before winning the series in six.

Carey Price is a finalist for the Vezina and Hart trophies, but not even his sensational goaltending could carry the Canadiens back to a second straight appearance in the Eastern Conference Final.

Here are five reasons the Canadiens were eliminated:

1. Special teams -- Montreal's power play went 1-for-16, with the goal coming in the one game out of six it dominated from start to finish. Worse, its penalty killers were more of a threat on offense than its power play, but the Canadiens allowed seven power-play goals in 20 opportunities, a 65 percent kill rate. That's a tough pair of gut punches.

"Our special teams, not only the power play but the penalty killing, were not good," coach Michel Therrien said.

2. 'The Triplets' -- Tampa Bay's line of Tyler Johnson centering Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat proved too much for the Canadiens to contain. Kucherov led the series with six goals and seven points. Johnson had five points, including two goals; he leads the Stanley Cup Playoffs with eight goals. Palat had two goals and three assists. They accounted for 10 of the Lightning's 17 goals against the Canadiens.

3. Reliance on Carey Price -- It would be hard to overstate how important Price's spectacular goaltending throughout the 2014-15 season and on into the playoffs was to the Canadiens' success.

"I didn't play well enough for us to win the series, that's more or less what it comes down to," Price said. "We lost a lot of tight games; I just needed to make that one more save in all the games that we lost and I didn't do that."

That's an absurdly harsh judgment by a goalie who said after Game 3 he believes he can stop every puck. Price would be the last to say he could use a bit more offensive support to work with, so we'll say it for him.

4. Ben Bishop and puck luck -- Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding. … We could go on and on with the posts the Canadiens hit during the series. The ringing of vulcanized rubber off goal posts and crossbars was getting on Therrien's nerves and may haunt him in his summer nightmares.

Yet blaming those close calls gives short shrift to the play of Ben Bishop. The Tampa Bay goalie did commit a couple of costly fielding errors with a stone glove that led to goals, and he was chased from Game 4 after allowing three goals on 14 shots.

That aside, Bishop had a 1.74 goals-against-average and .940 save percentage during the series, and he won nine of 11 games head-to-head against Price and the Canadiens this season.

5. That 3-0 hole -- Two of the first three games could have gone either way, but when Johnson scored the winner for the Lightning with 1.1 seconds remaining in Game 3, the Canadiens knew it would take a historic comeback to win the series. They bounced back in Game 4 with their most complete game of the playoffs to win handily, and they became the first team in Canadiens history to extend a series they trailed 3-0 to a sixth game.

The Lightning failed to match the Canadiens' level of desperation in Montreal's two wins, but the prospect of returning to the Bell Centre for a winner-take-all Game 7 was something Tampa Bay wanted no part of, and it played like that in the series clincher. Game 6 may as well have been for all the marbles for the Lightning, and it was the Canadiens who could not match that intensity in the end.

"I don't think we lost the series [Wednesday]," Therrien said. "I thought we played really well in Game 1, I thought we deserved a better fate, Game 3, same thing. When you're looking around at the big picture those are the type of games, when you play that well, you should win those games, eventually it catches you up."

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