The final horn had barely sounded to end Montreal's 4-1 victory at Toronto on Saturday night when the Canadiens found out they'd be playing the rival Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Given this season's battles between the teams, the intensity should be riveting.
"They play with a lot of fire," Montreal goalie Carey Price
said. "It's just going to be good old-fashioned hockey."
The victory against the Leafs clinched sixth for Montreal -- and a meeting with Boston.
"I'm just excited for the opportunity," Canadiens forward Michael Cammalleri
said. "The rivalry matchup, it's one of those series where there will be a lot of eyes and a lot of talk about and all those things. Boston's a team that probably has a lot of high expectations internally.
"So they're going to come out expecting to win. We are going to feel the same way."
The Canadiens are heading to the playoffs on a positive note thanks to two goals from captain Brian Gionta
and 27 saves by Price. The outcome delighted the large contingent of Canadiens fans at the Air Canada Centre crowd who sang "Ole! Ole! Ole!" as the clock ticked down.
"It was a little better than the Senators game (a 3-2 overtime loss Thursday), but there's still some things to clean up," Gionta said.
and Tomas Plekanec
also scored for Montreal (44-30-8). Phil Kessel
had the lone goal for the Maple Leafs (37-34-11), who missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season despite going 18-9-6 after the All-Star break.
"I feel like we took some steps this year in the right direction," forward Clarke MacArthur
said. "We don't want to be a team on the bubble next year ... and for that to happen we have to be more consistent and I thought we showed that in the second half.
"It's upsetting the way we finished the last couple games. But we're looking forward to a positive season next year and I thought the guys played really well the last couple of months."
Price was solid as he earned his 38th win of the season, the first Montreal goalie since Ken Dryden in 1976-77 to get that many. Price watched most of last year's playoff run from the bench but will play a major role in the team's success or failure this spring.
"He's got the confidence going," Cammalleri said. "I think he's ready -- poised and ready."
Montreal set the tempo early with goals from White and Gionta in the opening seven minutes and never really looked in danger of losing the lead.
"We didn't play our best game," Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf
said. "I think you could see it in our group -- we were a little deflated coming off that (playoff) push. It's disappointing ... we gave everything that we had down the stretch and we had a little bit of a letdown the last few games."
The Canadiens can't afford a letdown against the Bruins when their series begins in Boston next week. Though Montreal won four of the six regular-season meetings, the losses were more memorable -- an 8-6 defeat on Feb. 9 featured several fights and 182 penalty minutes, and a 7-0 stomping that came two weeks after Bruins captain Zdeno Chara hit Max Pacioretty
into a stanchion at the Bell Centre.
The teams will be meeting for the 33rd time in Stanley Cup play, with Montreal having won 24 times -- but the Bruins swept the Habs in their most recent meeting two years ago.
"It's going to be a good series," Price said. "There's history between us."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report.