Brendan Gallagher's seeing-eye slapshot early in the third period handcuffed Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec and trickled in slow motion into the Winnipeg net, sending the Canadiens all the way to home-ice advantage in the first round of the National Hockey League playoffs. The Habs' 4-2 win before a sellout crowd of 15,004 at the MTS Centre assures Montreal of opening its Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series, against an opponent yet to be determined, at the Bell Centre on Tuesday. Game 2 will take place Thursday. What's the point: All the Habs needed was a single point against the Jets — a loss in overtime or shootout would have done the trick — to nail down no worse than fourth place in the East. But it wasn't easy, as has been the case with much about the Canadiens during their 1-5 skid since qualifying for the playoffs on April 11 in Buffalo. Canadiens forward Rene Bourque had erased a 1-0 Jets lead midway through Thursday's second period, scoring his seventh of the season. Then Gallagher again equalized, notching his 14th, after Winnipeg had gone back in front. Centreman David Desharnais, with his 10th of the season on the power play and Max Pacioretty, with his 15th, put matters out of reach in the third period. The Jets had needed a win and a boatload of help from the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators if they were to keep their own playoff hopes alive. But they'd have learned during second intermission that they were out, both the Rangers and Senators having won their games. Where they're at: With a single game to play, the Canadiens are in fourth place in the East with 61 points. That's four up on the Maple Leafs, who clobbered Florida 4-0. No matter the result of Saturday's Canadiens-Leafs game in Toronto, the Habs will finish the 48-game, lockout-shortened season no worse than fourth. They could yet finish second in the East, behind only Pittsburgh.
Habs clinch home ice with comeback win over Jets
Montreal Gazette | Apr 26