BOSTON — Even as the Montreal Canadiens swept through the opening round of the playoffs — their first postseason series victory in four years — they knew that a more difficult challenge was next.
The Boston Bruins. Their Original Six rival. The defending Eastern Conference champions and the NHL’s top team in the regular season.
“That’s our measuring stick,” left wing Max Pacioretty said after the Canadiens beat the Bruins 3-1 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Wednesday night. “There’s always been that rivalry, and that bad feeling between Boston and Montreal. Not just between the cities, but in the rooms, too.”
Pacioretty scored the winner and Carey Price made 29 saves to give the Canadiens a spot in the conference finals against the New York Rangers. Game 1 will be in Montreal on Saturday, with the rest of the schedule to be announced.
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It’s just the second time since winning their NHL-best 24th Stanley Cup title in 1993 that the Canadiens have reached the third round of the playoffs.
“You have an opportunity to get one step closer to the Stanley Cup,” said Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban, the team’s leading scorer in these playoffs. “We deserve it. We played hard. Nothing has come easy for us all year.”
Dale Weise and Daniel Briere also scored for the Canadiens, who needed a win in Game 6 on Monday night to force the series to a seventh game. They beat Boston 4-0, then came to the TD Garden and Price dominated the Bruins again.
“Carey Price was outstanding. Gave them a chance to win every night,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said of the goalie who backstopped Canada to Olympic gold in February. “You play the way he did, it gives his team a lot of confidence and one of the keys to their success.”
The Canadiens scored just 2:18 into the game to quiet the Boston crowd and then made it 2-0 midway through the second period. Jarome Iginla made it 2-1 at the end of the second, but Briere chipped in a power-play goal to make it 3-1 in the third.
LOS ANGELES — Trevor Lewis scored his fourth goal of the postseason, Jonathan Quick made 21 saves and the Los Angeles Kings forced a seventh game in the Freeway Faceoff series with a 2-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6.
Jake Muzzin scored an early goal for the Kings, who ended their three-game skid with another sturdy defensive effort at home.
Los Angeles is 6-1 in postseason elimination games over the past two seasons while beating Ducks goalie John Gibson for the first time in his six-game NHL career.
Kyle Palmieri scored and Gibson stopped 21 shots for the top-seeded Ducks, who missed a chance to clinch their first trip to the Western Conference finals since 2007.
Game 7 is Friday night at Honda Center.
• The San Jose Sharks are bringing back coach Todd McLellan and general manager Doug Wilson for another season despite another early playoff flop. Owner Hasso Plattner said he was accepting Wilson’s recommendation to keep McLellan after the Sharks became just the fourth NHL team to lose a best-of-seven playoff series after winning the first three games. The Sharks have a 271-130-57 record in six seasons under McLellan, posting the second-most wins in that span.