MONTREAL (AP)—The Montreal Canadiens’ improbable playoff run has reached a decisive seventh game for a second series in a row.
Michael Cammalleri(notes) scored his second goal of the game midway through the second period and Jaroslav Spacek(notes) netted the go-ahead tally 2:30 later for the Canadiens, who forced a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semifinals with a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night.
Bill Guerin(notes) deflected Sergei Gonchar’s(notes) slap shot from the right point past Jaroslav Halak(notes) with 1:24 remaining to draw Pittsburgh within one. But the Canadiens held on to set up Game 7 in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
“For us, it’s the reality,” Cammalleri said. “If you pinch yourself, you’re beat. I remember when you first come in the league if you start sitting around staring in awe and catching flies you’ll be out pretty quick. Now we belong. We’re having fun. For us, hey, we’ve got an opportunity to knock these guys off in Game 7. Let’s go enjoy it and I’ll say the same thing I’ve said every game: ‘Let’s see if we can’t go and play a great game.”’
Halak stopped 34 shots for the eighth-seeded Canadiens, who came back to beat Washington in the first round after falling into a 3-1 series hole against the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals.
They now have an opportunity to end the reigning Stanley Cup champions’ run of five straight playoff series wins.
“We know it’s going to be a great challenge for us,” Lapierre said. “We know what to expect from them, from their fans, and we just need a good start in Pittsburgh.”
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby(notes) scored his first goal in seven games in the first period. Crosby earned an assist for his 19th point in 12 games when Kris Letang(notes) scored for a second game in a row early in the second.
That made it 2-1 for Pittsburgh, which had closed out each of its five previous playoff series with a road win.
Cammalleri, who opened the scoring 1:13 in, drew the Canadiens even 10:45 into the middle period when he put a backhand past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) from the slot for his second of the game. He has 11 goals in 13 games.
Spacek, who returned to the lineup after missing nine games with a virus, drove a slap shot from the point past Fleury at 13:15 to touch off a thunderous ovation from the crowd.
Fleury made 21 saves.
“They were facing elimination,” Penguins left wing Pascal Dupuis(notes) said. “They were a desperate hockey team. They came hard. They have some guys who are putting the puck in the net right now. Cammalleri’s playing really well for them right now and at the same time they’re in their building, they played well and we’ve just got to go back home and win at home.”
Game 7 could prove to be the final game at Mellon Arena, the Penguins’ longtime home. The defending champions, who haven’t lost a playoff series since falling to Detroit in six games in the 2008 Stanley Cup finals, will move into the new Consol Energy Center next season.
Shutdown defenseman Hal Gill(notes) was unable to play for Montreal after he was forced to leave Saturday night’s game. Gill, who skated in pregame warmups, was cut on the back of his left leg by former teammate Chris Kunitz’s(notes) skate in the Canadiens’ 2-1 loss in Pittsburgh in Game 5.
Crosby, who hadn’t scored since extending his first-round streak to four games in Game 5 against Ottawa, tied it at 7:22 when he batted a puck out of the air past Halak.
Letang gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead on a power play 5:21 into the second when his shot from the slot trickled through Halak for his fifth goal.
NOTES: The Penguins lost to Montreal 2-1 in their first game at Mellon Arena — then named the Civic Arena—on Oct. 11, 1967. … Cammalleri’s 11 goals are the most by a Canadiens player in the playoffs since Vincent Damphousse scored 11 in 20 games when Montreal last won the Stanley Cup in 1993. … Canadiens D Andrei Markov(notes) missed his fifth game since hurting his right knee in the series opener.