Skip to Main Content

Habs reward? A date with defending champs

by Dave Lozo
WASHINGTON -- Congratulations to the Montreal Canadiens on their historical come-from-behind first-round upset of the Washington Capitals. Their reward?

One day of rest before heading out on the road to open a second-round series with the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night (7 ET, CBC, RDS, VERSUS).

The Canadiens had their share of trouble with the Penguins in the regular season, dropping three of the four meetings. But as the Canadiens proved against the Capitals, who finished with 33 more points than the Habs in the regular season, all that goes out the window in the postseason.

"They are the favorite. They finished better than us," said Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who will have to be just as brilliant against the Pens as he was against the Caps. "They have more wins against us this season. But in the playoffs we proved that anything is possible."

There are some positives for the Canadiens heading into the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Sure, they won just one of four meetings against the Pens, but that win came in the most recent meeting. Goaltender Carey Price, who won't be anywhere near the ice with Halak playing so well, suffered two of those losses.

Defenseman Andrei Markov missed three of those games, all Canadiens losses. The team is as healthy as it's been at any point during the season heading into this matchup -- and maybe as confident as ever, too, after knocking out the Presidents' Trophy-winning Capitals on Wednesday night.

"We're looking forward to it," Habs forward Brian Gionta said. "We played extremely well and now it's time to refocus and get or game set for Pitt."

"We'll enjoy the moment tonight," said coach Jacques Martin, "and tomorrow we'll get ready for Pittsburgh."

The Canadiens certainly made a believer out of Caps coach Bruce Boudreau.

"If that goalie can play the same way as he played the last three games, anything can happen," he said of Halak, who stopped 131 of 134 shots over the final three games of their series, all Canadiens wins. "The Penguins are going to come at them and the one thing about Montreal is they're very well-coached and they have all completely bought into that fact of what they have to do to win.

"If they get a lead, they're a tough team to beat. I think we're a very good hockey club and they beat us, so I wouldn't be the farm against them."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DLozoNHL

View More