MONTREAL (AP) — The Montreal Canadiens swept their way into the second round of the NHL playoffs, and now look forward to some rest.
The first team to advance, Montreal won the best-of-seven series with Tampa Bay 4-0 thanks to a 4-3 victory Tuesday night, and now faces a long wait for the Eastern Conference semifinal against the winner of the Boston-Detroit series.
Max Pacioretty got the winning goal with 43 seconds remaining on a power play. Pacioretty, who played for the United States at the Olympics in February, is glad to get some time off. "Going to Sochi and not having much time off, I feel this is going to be a good chance for me to get in the weight room and find some strength for Round 2," he said.
"We have to take advantage of it and try to stay sharp as a group at the same time," added Canadiens captain Brian Gionta. Pacioretty was in front of the net to whack Thomas Vanek's rebound past Kristers Gudlevskis for the winner.
"It's a great feeling," said Pacioretty, a 39-goal scorer in the regular season who got his first of the series. "I've been in a bit of a drought since the end of the year. I've been getting opportunities and missing my chances. But you wait for that bounce and I got it."
It was Montreal's first sweep since beating Buffalo in four games in 1993 en route to the last of its record 24 Stanley Cups. The Canadiens built a 3-1 lead on goals from Daniel Briere, Lars Eller and Brendan Gallagher.
Ondrej Palat had a goal and an assist for Tampa Bay. Victor Hedman pulled the Lightning within one goal three minutes into the third period, and Tyler Johnson tied the game three minutes later. Lightning backup Gudlevskis replaced Anders Lindback after Gallagher's goal 5:42 into the second period. Lindback gave up three goals on 20 shots, while Gudlevskis stopped 16 of 17 shots in relief.
Lightning star Steven Stamkos didn't like the penalty call that set up the decisive goal, but didn't dispute the Canadiens had the better of play for most of the series. "We played like we had nothing to lose in the third," said Stamkos. "We were the better team."
Tampa Bay's rookie-laden lineup could not keep pace with Montreal. The Lightning also played the series without No. 1 goalie Ben Bishop, who has a left arm injury. For a second straight game, the Bell Centre was at a fever pitch. And while it took Rene Bourque only 11 seconds to score the first goal in Game 3, this time it took 2:24 for Briere to open the scoring.
The Lightning defense abandoned the front of the net and left Briere alone in front to score his first of the series and 51st playoff goal. The Canadiens had a 15-6 shot advantage in the period and made it 2-0 when Brian Gionta picked Paquette's pocket in the neutral zone and sent Eller in on the left side to blast a low shot past Lindback.
Tampa Bay caught a break while killing a penalty in the second period when Alexei Emelin misplayed a puck behind the net. Palat swept around and pushed the puck in among a pile of players. But only 1:10 later, Tomas Plekanec sent Gallagher in on the right side to wrist a shot in off the post to restore the two-goal lead. The 21-year-old has five goals in nine career playoff games.
That chased Lindback, who allowed three goals on 20 shots. The Lightning poured it on in the third and Hedman banked in a shot off Price from behind the net. Three minutes later, J.T. Brown sent a pass in front that went off Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban's skate right to Johnson for a quick shot from close range.
"They were playing desperate," Canadiens goalie Carey Price said. "They came at us with a lot of speed. Desperate teams tend to get more breaks, for some reason." But Pacioretty struck to move Montreal into the next round.
"I knew I had to step up," Pacioretty said. "I've been frustrated lately and the only thing that kept me sane was the team winning and other people scoring. "When you realize you can end the series with one shot, that frustration goes away for a brief moment and that's what happened."
Notes: The Lightning pulled Radko Gudas, who has a suspected lower body injury, and Tom Pyatt from the lineup, and put in Mike Kostka and Keith Aulie. . . . Montreal made no changes. ... The Canadiens last won a playoff series in 2010.