In a fight for their playoff lives, the Montreal club pulled off a convincing 4-0 win against the Boston Bruins on Monday night to force a seventh and deciding game in their Stanley Cup playoff semifinal series.
To hear their fanbase, a do-or-die Game 6 win against their hated rivals from Boston was never in doubt.
“Incredible! The Habs are the best, did you see that win?,” yelled Andrew Giannakis, breathlessly, as he emerged from the arena. “They scored the first goal and the rest is history.”
As with Monday night, Montreal is faced with a must-win situation in 48 hours if it wants to continue being the only Canadian team in the NHL playoffs this year.
Some, likes Charles Mondon, can feel the playoff fever in the air.
“I don’t think there is no better place to cheer for hockey than Montreal,” said Mondon, sporting a Max Pacioretty jersey as he smoked a cigarette outside the arena. “No disrespect to the rest of Canada … here in Montreal, we bleed hockey, we breath hockey, we eat hockey, we sleep hockey.”
Mondon predicts a close contest on Wednesday night — a three-goal game that could really go either way.
“To be honest with you, Game 7 against Boston for round two is the best feeling in the world,” Mondon said.
“I think we’re going to beat them.”
Montreal and Boston is considered one of the greatest rivalry in sports, and that battle is playing out again this post-season. The Habs and Bruins have met a whopping 34 times in the NHL playoffs, with the Canadiens having won 24 of those series.
Things have been different in recent years — the Bruins have taken the last two series in 2009 and 2011.
But fans are hoping for a reversal of fortunes, like Devon Pattemore of Yorkton, Sask., a lifelong Habs fan who finds herself in Montreal for a conference during a playoff run.
Sporting a well-worn Saku Koivu jersey, she came out to watch the third period outside the Bell Centre with a few hundred other fans who peered into a restaurant’s giant screen from outside the eatery.
“They’re just a faster team and I just believe in them,” said Pattemore, predicting a Montreal Game 7 victory. “On Wednesday night we’ll be at a pub (in town) watching.”
The last time the Habs beat the Bruins in the playoffs was in 2008 and it was largely overshadowed by what happened once the game was done.
A thrilling, emotionally charged seventh game win ended with smashed windows, tear gas and arrests. Police cars were set ablaze and stores looted when a festive celebration turned ugly.
But in a city known for it’s hockey-related rioting, security has not been an issue so far in these playoffs.
There was a heavy police presence downtown on Monday night, but few revellers made it up to the downtown core. Clusters of officers were gathered at every street corner and in front of storefronts that might be susceptible to looting.
Security guards hired by some businesses milled about and there were no large gatherings on a crisp May evening.
And by the end of the night, Montreal police reported no major incidents.