© The Associated Press
The Montreal Canadiens watch as the New York Rangers celebrate their 1-0 win in Game 6 of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs Eastern Conference finals Thursday in New York. The Rangers advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
By Peter Rakobowchuk
THE CANADIAN PRESS
MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens fans experienced a mixture of pride and dejection on Thursday night after watching their heroes get eliminated from the NHL playoffs.
The Habs, the only Canadian team to make this year’s post-season, saw their Stanley Cup dreams extinguished as the New York Rangers eked out a 1-0 victory in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference final.
Although the game was played in New York, the Bell Centre in Montreal was packed once again as the decisive matchup was broadcast on giant screens for a sold-out crowd.
Fans emerging from the arena after the game were obviously disappointed but there was no indication of any trouble downtown.
Helmeted, riot-equipped police stood watch along Ste-Catherine Street but even many of them didn’t stay around too long.
It was in sharp contrast to the final game of Montreal’s previous series, against the Boston Bruins, when police lined the street to protect businesses from rowdy fans.
On Thursday night, there was the occasional vocal outburst from unhappy or frustrated fans, but Montrealers appeared to accept the defeat as they quietly headed home.
Emilie Quilliams, 18, said her disappointment at the playoff exit was tempered by seeing the Canadiens reach the semifinals.
“I’m still proud of them,” she said. “For them to come to the second-to-last round of the playoffs, it’s something that we haven’t seen in quite a while, so I was really happy for them.”
Many fans were already looking ahead to next season, particularly after a gritty playoff performance that included goaltender Dustin Tokarski filling in admirably for starter Carey Price, who was injured early in the Rangers series.
The Canadiens were a pleasant playoff surprise for their faithful, sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round and then defeating the Bruins, the league’s top team, in seven in the next round.
The Habs were the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup when they defeated the Los Angeles Kings in 1993.
The Rangers, who last won the trophy in 1994, will play either the Kings or the Chicago Blackhawks in the final.
Thursday night’s game was the third time this post-season that Habs fans had been able to attend the Bell Centre to see their team play on the road.