As the celebration was starting, the Montreal Canadiens recalled that they are still four wins short of their goal.
“But it still feels good for tonight to win,” center Kirk Muller said Monday night after the Canadiens defeated the New York Islanders, 5-2, to advance to the Stanley Cup final for the 33rd time.
“A lot of us haven’t been this far before,” Muller said. “We worked hard for it, but we know we’ll have to get right back to work.”
The Canadiens won the best-of-seven Wales Conference final, four games to one, and earned a rest before the championship round. Montreal will seek its 24th Stanley Cup title in a series beginning June 1 against the winner of the Campbell Conference final, the Kings or the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It’s a team goal and this is just the third step,” forward Brian Bellows said. “I’m excited, but I won’t get overly dramatic about tonight. We’ve still got a long way to go.”
The Canadiens exchanged hugs and smiles but refused to ham it up too much after receiving the conference championship trophy.
The Canadiens, who won twice in overtime in the series, were determined not to return to New York for a sixth game against the Islanders, who had already come back twice to upset the Stanley Cup champion Pittsurgh Penguins in the Patrick Division final.
The Canadiens had a record-tying 11-game playoff winning streak ended Saturday night in New York when the Islanders forced a fifth game with a 4-1 victory.
“We had a good talk this morning before our skate,” Bellows said. “We said tonight’s the night. We have to do it. We can’t let it get any longer.”
Winger John LeClair, whose hitting and aggressive forechecking set the tone for Montreal, added: “We got the team effort we didn’t get in Game 4. We definitely didn’t want to go back to New York.”
New York forward Ray Ferraro saw the turning point come before Monday’s game.
“If you want it in a nutshell, the two overtime games were the key,” Ferraro said. “We had the chances and didn’t score in them.”