Canadiens upset Penguins 2-0 to advance to first round of NHL playoffs

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TORONTO — Artturi Lehkonen scored with 4:11 left in the third period and Shea Weber iced it with an empty-netter as the Montreal Canadiens upset Pittsburgh 2-0 to secure a berth in the first round of the NHL playoffs.

Carey Price made 22 saves for the shutout as 12th-seeded Montreal won the best-of-five qualifier series in four games.

The game’s first goal came after Paul Byron took advantage of a Pittsburgh turnover and drew three Penguins to him as he skated behind the net.

Byron passed it in front to Lehkonen for the one-timer past netminder Tristan Jarry. Weber’s goal came with 31.8 seconds left.

Jarry made 20 saves in his first career post-season start. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan turned to the all-star netminder as a replacement for Matt Murray, who has lost eight of his last nine post-season starts.

The Canadiens barely made the cut for the NHL’s 24-team restart but have shown they belong. Few predicted that Sidney Crosby and the fifth-seeded Penguins would be eliminated so early.

As the home team, the Canadiens were given the full pre-game video treatment Friday in the fan-free Scotiabank Arena. A Kanye West-Depeche Mode mashup provided the soundtrack for a Montreal highlight pack on the big screens.

The Penguins were aggressive at the outset and were nearly rewarded when Patric Hornqvist fired a shot from a poor angle that beat Price over the left shoulder but hit the post.

Pittsburgh was rather quiet after that and seemed to lack the urgency you’d expect from a team facing elimination. Montreal pressed on occasion but seemed generally tentative as well.

The Penguins had their first power play midway through the second period with Joel Armia off for high-sticking. Pittsburgh seemed completely lost with the man advantage and Montreal had the better chances while shorthanded.

It was the Canadiens who seemed more motivated to start the third. Brendan Gallagher was sent in alone in the opening minute but he couldn’t beat Jarry.

Byron sped down the left wing moments later and fired a slapshot that hit the post. Jarry followed that with his best save of the game as he robbed Gallagher with the glove after a brilliant pass from Tomas Tatar.

Weber, essentially playing every other shift, anchored the Montreal defence that prevented Pittsburgh’s big guns from rolling this series. With the consistent Price between the pipes, the Canadiens played with a confidence despite their underdog status.

The Canadiens last reached the first round of the NHL playoffs in 2017, a six-game loss to the New York Rangers. The Penguins won their second straight Stanley Cup that year.

The Canadiens got the Penguins’ attention with a 3-2 overtime win in Game 1. A listless Montreal effort followed as Pittsburgh pulled even with a 3-1 victory.

Jeff Petry scored his second game-winning goal of the qualifying round to give Montreal a 4-3 victory on Wednesday night.

The NHL is using best-of-five series for the qualification round with the winners advancing to the best-of-seven first round. The league last used the best-of-five format in 1986.

Montreal entered the series with a 31-31-9 record, the worst mark of the 24 teams to make the post-season. Pittsburgh (40-23-6), meanwhile, had the seventh-best points percentage in the league (.623) when play was stopped last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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