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(Tuesday, April 22nd)
Final Score: Montreal 4, Tampa Bay 3
Montreal, QC (SportsNetwork.com) - It was 21 years ago the last time the Montreal Canadiens swept an opponent in a playoff series.
It was also 21 years ago that the storied franchise won its last Stanley Cup.
Thanks to Max Pacioretty's late goal, Montreal finished off a convincing four- game sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 4-3 win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
The last sweep by Montreal in the postseason occurred during the 1993 Adams Division finals, when the team took down Buffalo on the way to winning its 24th championship.
It was also the last time a Canadian team hoisted the chalice, and if it is to happen this year, it would have to be the Canadiens as they are the only representatives of the country left in this year's chase.
"We have to give a lot of credit to our team, we played against a very good club over there," said Montreal head coach Michel Therrien. "But our team stuck to the plan and we were able to wrap this up tonight."
The Canadiens held a 3-1 lead in the third period before the Lightning scored twice in the frame to tie it. However, the team was awarded a power play with 2:11 to play in regulation when Cedric Paquette was whistled for tripping Francois Bouillon.
On the goal, P.K. Subban sent a pass from the right point to the left where Thomas Vanek fired a one-timer on net. Kristers Gudlevskis made the stop, but Pacioretty was there to shove away at the loose puck and he forced it in for the go-ahead goal and his first-ever playoff marker with 42.6 seconds to play.
"Obviously, my job is to score and I wasn't doing so lately," said Pacioretty. "But in the playoffs, every other game, different players have been stepping up. We just kept things simple on the power play. Vanek got it through and I just poked it in."
Tampa got Gudlevskis out of the net after the faceoff, but was unable to establish any pressure before the horn sounded to end the series.
Brendan Gallagher, Danny Briere and Lars Eller all scored, while Carey Price stopped 20 shots for the Canadiens, who will now have a lengthy break to prepare for their semifinal matchup.
Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Victor Hedman all scored for the Lightning, who had grabbed home ice from the Canadiens on the final day of the season, but it didn't help as the team was swept for the first time in franchise history.
"This has been a transition year for us, but a positive year for us," said Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper. "We have 12 players in their first playoff, but we went down swinging. I couldn't be more proud of our team."
Anders Lindback, who was called upon to be the starting goaltender in the series as Ben Bishop suffered an upper-body injury late in the season, struggled again as he gave up three goals on 20 shots and was lifted in the second period.
Gudlevskis gave up just the one goal on 17 shots in relief.
It didn't take long for the Habs to open up a 1-0 lead, as Dale Weise bulled his way down the left wing and from the corner he backhanded the puck to the front where Briere was all alone for the easy goal at 2:24.
Montreal took a 2-0 lead at 15:21 of the first when a turnover in the neutral zone was picked up by Eller and he beat Lindback cleanly with a slapper from the left circle.
Tampa got a lucky break to cut its deficit in half at 4:32 of the second. A misplay from Alexei Emelin near his net saw the puck come out front. Palat picked the disc up and tried a wraparound from the left side that was stopped, but the puck sat on the line and Palat stuffed it in for a shorthanded goal.
It took just 1:10 for the Canadiens to regain their two-goal lead as Gallagher's quick shot from the right circle after the puck squirted away from the boards beat Lindback, who was then replaced between the pipes.
The Lightning, though, made it a one-goal game again at 3:29 of the third as the team controlled the puck off a right circle faceoff, and Hedman was able to throw the puck in off the back of Price from behind the left of the net.
Just three minutes later, J.T. Brown snapped a turnaround pass from the right boards to the left side where Johnson shot it home to tie the game.
The only other time these teams had met in the postseason was in the 2004 Eastern Conference semifinals, when the Lightning swept the Canadiens on their way to their first and only Stanley Cup trophy ... Gallagher, Eller and Subban each had five points in the series ... Montreal went 1-for-2 on the power play, but just 2-for-13 in the series.
04/22 23:12:36 ET