Canadiens advance to Stanley Cup Final on Lehkonen’s OT goal originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The Montreal Canadiens‘ improbable quest for a 25th Stanley Cup continues.
After entering the postseason as the essential last seed with 59 points, the Canadiens are headed to the Stanley Cup final after defeating the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in overtime in Game 6 of the semifinals Thursday.
The Canadiens return to the final for the first time since 1993, when they captured the last of an NHL-record 24 Stanley Cups. A Canadian team has not won the Stanley Cup since.
After a save by Carey Price at one end, Artturi Lehkonen scored the series-clinching goal off a feed from Phillip Danault just 1:39 into overtime, sending the Habs to their 34th appearance in the final.
Getting there wasn’t an easy for the Canadiens. A season of adversity included a mid-season coaching change from Claude Julien to assistant-turned-interim coach Dominique Ducharme, the postponement of four consecutive games in March due to COVID-19 and a five-game losing streak to end the regular season as they clinched a playoff spot with the lone point gained during an overtime loss in the second-to-last game.
The challenges continued in the postseason as they overcame a 3-1 series deficit in the first round to defeat the top-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs. After sweeping the Winnipeg Jets and splitting the first two games with the Golden Knights, Ducharme tested positive for COVID prior to Game 3 of the semifinals, putting the team in the hands of assistant coach Luke Richardson.
And still, thanks in part to their dominance on the power play, they sit four wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup.
Shea Weber opened the scoring in Game 6 with an unassisted power-play goal to give the Canadiens a 1-0 lead. The lead lasted just 48 seconds as Reilly Smith tipped in a shot by Shea Theodore to even the score at 1-1.
Cole Caufield put the Canadiens back in front after deflecting a pass over the stick of his defender and scoring the go-ahead goal midway through the second period. Alec Martinez then scored the equalizer for the Knights on a rebound just over one minute into the third period to even the score at 2-2.
The game went to overtime for the third time in the series, setting the stage for Lehkonen’s winner.
Price finished with 37 saves for the Canadiens, who didn’t allow a power play in the series, successfully killing 15 penalties. They enter the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a power play goal in 13 straight games.
The Canadiens await the winner of Friday’s Game 7 between the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders.