Toronto at Montreal

Canadiens finish season with win to set up first round with Bruins

CBSSports.com wire reports
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MONTREAL -- While the Montreal Canadiens would be happy to celebrate their first conference title in ages, they finished the regular season with their eyes turned toward a making an unexpected run at a record 25th Stanley Cup.

Christopher Higgins scored twice and Mark Streit had a goal and an assist as Montreal beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 Saturday to finish their schedule atop the Eastern Conference.

"I think it's been a dream year," said coach Guy Carbonneau, whose team completed the regular season with a 47-25-10 record for 104 points.

The Canadiens have a two-point lead on second-place Pittsburgh, which plays its final game Sunday in Philadelphia. Montreal will claim its first conference title in 19 years if the Penguins, who also have 47 wins, lose to the Flyers.

"Obviously it would be great, but they don't really hang conference titles in this rink, they raise Stanley Cup banners," Canadiens goalie Carey Price said. "It would be kind of nice to get it but everybody knows what the ultimate prize is."

Price stopped 26 shots, finishing his rookie season with a 24-12-3 record and three shutouts in 41 games.

"It seems like I'm climbing the hill pretty fast, so hopefully I can keep climbing," said the 20-year-old goalie, who was chosen fifth overall by Montreal in the 2005 draft.

Regardless of whether they finish first or second overall in the East, Montreal will face Boston in the opening round of the playoffs as a result of the Bruins' 3-0 loss to Buffalo.

The Canadiens will host the series opener Thursday at the Bell Centre.

Mark Bell scored late in the second for Toronto, which missed the playoffs for a third straight season. The Maple Leafs finished last in the Northeast Division and 12th overall in the East with a 36-35-11 mark and 83 points.

Rarely-used backup Andrew Raycroft made 33 saves for Toronto, though it was the three shots that he didn't stop that pretty much summed up his dismal season.

"I'm not going to think about hockey for a while," Raycroft said. "I won't be watching playoff games, I won't be watching highlights, I won't be watching talk shows, I won't be listening to the radio. I'll be as far away as I can get."

Streit opened the scoring nine minutes into the second when his soft wrist shot from the blue line somehow got between Raycroft's blocker and his right pad.

"The first goal was just a matter of him not being in the net," Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice said.

Higgins made it a 2-0 lead to the delight of the crowd of 21,273 -- Montreal's 141st consecutive sellout -- when his shot from the right side went in off the tip of Raycroft's glove for his 26th goal at 14:03.

Bell drew the Maple Leafs within 2-1 when he was left alone in the slot to beat Price with a quick shot for his fourth goal at 18:02.

Higgins got his second of the game -- extending his career high to 27 goals -- when he beat Raycroft with a quick shot during a power play 7:28 into the third on a fine setup by Bryan Smolinski.

The goal gave the Canadiens a league-high total of 262 this season, one more than Ottawa. Detroit, which hosts Chicago on Sunday to complete its schedule, is third with 253 goals.

Montreal has not led the NHL in goals since 1979-80. The Canadiens scored 328 goals that season, one more than Philadelphia.

Notes

  • The Canadiens finished first overall in the Prince of Wales Conference in 1988-89 with a 53-18-9 record and 115 points. Current Montreal GM Bob Gainey was the team's captain and head coach Guy Carbonneau won his second straight Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward that season.
  • Canadiens LW Gregory Stewart made his NHL debut. Stewart, who was recalled from Hamilton of the AHL on Wednesday, got a breakaway on his first shift early in the first and was stopped by Raycroft.
  • Montreal has won 23 of 30 playoff series against Boston.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Andrew Raycroft gets a piece of the puck on Cristopher Higgins' shot, just not enough to make the stop. (AP)
Andrew Raycroft gets a piece of the puck on Cristopher Higgins' shot, just not enough to make the stop. (AP)

Related Links
 
Scoreboard
Toronto (36-35-11)0101
Montreal  (47-25-10) «0213
Three Stars
C. Higgins
MON


Goals: 2
Assist(s): 0
M. Streit
MON


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 1
A. Kovalev
MON


Goals: 0
Assist(s): 1
Scoring Summary
1ST PERIOD
None
2ND PERIOD
09:00Mark Streit (14), Wrist Shot. Assist: Alexei Kovalev, Tomas Plekanec
14:03Christopher Higgins (26), Wrist Shot. Assist: Mark Streit, Ryan O'Byrne
18:02Mark Bell (4), Slap Shot. Assist: Kris Newbury, Jason Blake
3RD PERIOD
07:28Christopher Higgins (27), Slap Shot. Assist: Bryan Smolinski, Andrei Markov
Penalty Summary
1ST PERIOD
03:30Dandenault, 2 min, High-Sticking
04:03Hamrlik, 2 min, Hooking
09:56Devereaux, 2 min, Hooking
12:10McCabe, 2 min, Hooking
2ND PERIOD
04:03Newbury, 2 min, Tripping
3RD PERIOD
05:53White, 2 min, Hooking
06:52Plekanec, 2 min, Interference
06:52Kubina, 2 min, Slashing
10:36McCabe, 2 min, Holding
12:00Kostitsyn, 2 min, Roughing
12:00Stajan, 2 min, Roughing
16:04Tucker, 5 min, Fighting
16:04Gorges, 5 min, Fighting
16:16Moore, 2 min, Roughing
18:12Kubina, 2 min, Cross-Checking
19:58McCabe, 5 min, Fighting
19:58McCabe, 2 min, Slashing
19:58Stewart, 5 min, Fighting
Shots On Goal
 123T
Toronto810927
Montreal12121236
Goalies
GoalieMINSSGA
Andrew Raycroft60:00333
Carey Price59:50261
Power Play Conversions
Power Play
Toronto0-for-0
Montreal1-for-2
Game Information
Attendance - 21273
Referees - Eric Furlatt, Dan Marouelli
Linesmen - Pierre Champoux, Michel Cormier
 
Other Games
TB 1 Final
Atl 4
Ana 4 Final
LA 3
Cal 7 Final
Van 1
Fla 1 Final
Wash 3
Buf 3 Final
Bos 0
Colu 0 Final
StL 3