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2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals: Canadiens return to Final, oust Golden Knights in OT thriller

MONTREAL, QUEBEC – JUNE 24: Artturi Lehkonen #62 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal past Robin Lehner #90 of the Vegas Golden Knights during the first overtime period in Game Six of the Stanley Cup Semifinals of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre on June 24, 2021 in Montreal, Quebec. (Photo : Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

The Montreal Canadiens’ quest for a record 25th Stanley Cup title remains right on track after ousting the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 6 of their semifinal showdown. Artturi Lehkonen scored the winning goal in overtime to give Montreal a dramatic 3-2 win and send the Canadiens to their first Stanley Cup Final in 28 years.

Montreal’s playoff journey simply remarkable

The Canadiens’ journey to reach this stage of the competition has been totally remarkable, especially given the fact that they entered this year’s playoffs with the worst record among the remaining teams. Montreal then got off to a horrible start in the postseason, losing three of their first four games against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Canadiens persevered, though, winning the next three games against the Leafs to overturn a 3-1 series deficit in the first round. They sustained the momentum in their next series against the Winnipeg Jets, completing the four-game sweep in the second round.

The Canadiens faced even more adversity in the Semifinals with interim coach Dominique Ducharme missing the past four games after testing positive for COVID-19 last week. That didn’t stop the Canadiens from stamping their class in this series, though.

Montreal captain Shea Weber opened the scoring for the Canadiens in Game 6, netting a power-play goal at 14:06 of the first period. He blasted a slap shot from the top of the left face-off circle to give the Canadiens a dream start. Reilly Smith managed to equalize just 48 seconds later, deflecting Shea Theodore’s pass inside the left post to give some life to Vegas.

The Canadiens regained the advantage at 9:36 of the second period with Cole Caufield the goal-scorer once again. Caufield scored on a breakaway with a stunning wrist shot over Robin Lehner’s glove for his fourth goal of the postseason.

The Golden Knights would not quit, though, and leveled once again at 1:08 of the third period. Two-time Stanley Cup winner Alec Martinez scored the equalizer on a rebound from the edge of the crease that managed to just get between Carey Price’s pads after he pulled a save on Alex Pietrangelo’s rising shot attempt.

Related Article: 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals: Islanders Rally Past Lightning in OT, Force winner-take-all Game 7

Lehkonen’s overtime winner sparks celebrations

The winning moment that Montreal was waiting for came at 1:39 of overtime with Lehkonen scoring a one-timer off Phillip Danault’s backhand pass. Celebrations quickly erupted for the Canadiens who became just the sixth Canadian-based team to reach the Stanley Cup Final since 1994, and the first since the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games back in 2011.

It was a disappointing end to the season for the Golden Knights who were making their third semifinal appearance in four years. They finished the regular season with an impressive 40-14-2 record and matched the tally of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Colorado Avalanche with 82 points.

Unfortunately for the Golden Knights, their offense sputtered in this series against the Habs. After recording a 4-1 win in Game 1, the Golden Knights managed to score just nine goals the rest of the series. It didn’t help matters that Vegas struggled with its power play offense, going 0 for 17 with the man advantage against the Canadiens.

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