The Montreal Canadiens had a lot to prove in the Stanley Cup playoffs. After their last postseason ended in disaster, the Canadiens probably didn't expect to have it easier in this year's playoffs. But after finishing a sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 22, and doing what no Montreal team did since its last Stanley Cup run, the memories of the past don't seem so bad.
The Canadiens broke the Lightning's hearts late to end Game 4, just as they did in Game 1. A power play goal from Max Pacioretty with 43 seconds left is how Montreal became the first team to advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It is a direct contrast from last year, when the Canadiens were one of the first teams to be eliminated from the postseason, despite winning their division.
The seventh seeded Ottawa Senators manhandled Montreal in five games a year ago, yet Tampa Bay did even worse this year. Despite having home ice advantage and earning second place in the Atlantic Division, the Lightning were never the same after the Canadiens beat them in overtime in Game 1.
Overtime looked like a sure fire outcome for Game 4, until Cedric Paquette was called for a tripping penalty with 2:11 left in the third. The Lightning killed off most of the power play, yet Pacioretty converted a rebound off a Thomas Vanek shot to send the Canadiens forward.
Montreal shouldn't have needed that much effort in Game 4, after jumping to a 3-1 lead and getting Tampa Bay goalie Anders Lindback pulled. Kristers Gudlevskis stabilized the Lightning as Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson tied the game early in the third -- but the Canadiens ended the third in much better fashion.
Few expected a sweep either way in this series, but it still went down as Montreal's first sweep since 1993 -- the last time it won the Stanley Cup. There's still a long way to go towards this year's Cup, especially with the Boston Bruins as the next potential opponent for the Canadiens.
It is nothing to be the first team to win a series in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Nevertheless, now there are only 15 teams left with the chance to win the last series of the postseason. The next round will truly show how good of a chance the Canadiens really have.