TORONTO (AP) — Artturi Lehkonen flipped a shot past Tristan Jarry with 4:11 remaining to lift the Montreal Canadiens to a stunning 2-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, clinching their first playoff berth in three years.
Paul Byron took advantage of a Pittsburgh turnover, darted behind the Penguins net and then slipped a pass to Lehkonen in front. The 25-year-old Lehkonen found enough space between four Pittsburgh players to slip the puck into the open net.
The Penguins mustered little down the stretch and Shea Weber added an empty-net goal in the final seconds as the 12th-seeded Canadiens captured the best-of-five qualifying round over fifth-seeded Pittsburgh in four games.
Carey Price stopped 22 shots to collect his sixth career playoff shutout. Montreal will advance to the first round of the playoffs against either Tampa Bay or Philadelphia.
Tristan Jarry made 20 saves in his first career playoff start, including a stellar glove save to thwart a breakaway by Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher early in the third period. Pittsburgh’s star-laden lineup, including captain Sidney Crosby, provided little support.
Crosby failed to record a point on his 33rd birthday. Neither did anybody else for the Penguins, whose consecutive Stanley Cup wins in 2016 and ’17 seem like an increasingly smaller speck in the rearview mirror. Pittsburgh has lost nine of its last 10 playoff games dating to the second round of the 2018 postseason against Washington.
His team badly outplayed in the final minutes of a 4-3 loss in Game 3 — a contest in which the Penguins blew a two-goal lead and looked listless as the clock ticked down — Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan turned to Jarry in search of a spark.
The 25-year-old was an unlikely All-Star in February thanks to a stellar first half that helped Pittsburgh stay afloat despite a series of injuries to high-profile players, Crosby chief among them.
Yet, Jarry had struggled before the shutdown created by the COVID-19 pandemic, losing each of his last four starts. He tried to keep sharp while back home in western Canada, using his two English Mastiffs as training partners during the extended layoff.
While Jarry was sharp in his first start in five months, for long stretches there was little jump from the Penguins against the last team to enter the expanded 24-team tournament.
The Canadiens, who were in the process of playing out the string before the “pause” and the ensuing fallout put them in postseason position, were only too happy to slow the game down. Still, they generated most of the quality scoring chances and Lehkonen’s winner came at the end of another sloppy sequence by the Penguins.
MAPLE LEAFS 4
BLUE JACKETS 3
TORONTO (AP) — Auston Matthews scored on a power play 13:10 into overtime and the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied from a three-goal deficit in the third period to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets, tying the best-of-five qualifying series at two wins apiece.
The Leafs scored three times in 3:34 to knot the score late in a game that Columbus and goalie Elvis Merzlikins had largely controlled until then. On Thursday night, the Blue Jackets had rallied from a three goals down to eventually win in overtime.
This time, with Nick Foligno in the penalty box for tripping, Matthews beat Elvis Merzlikins from the right circle to push the series to a decisive Game 5 on Sunday.
ISLANDERS 5, PANTHERS 1
TORONTO (AP) — Anthony Beauvillier scored twice, and the New York Islanders beat the Florida Panthers to clinch an NHL best-of-five preliminary round playoff series in four games.
Brock Nelson and Mathew Barzal had a goal and assist each in a game the Islanders never trailed. Defenseman Ryan Pulock made a diving stick save to prevent Florida’s Aleksander Barkov from scoring into an open side to maintain New York’s 3-1 lead midway through the second period.
COYOTES 4, PREDATORS 3
EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Brad Richardson scored on a rebound in overtime, Darcy Kuemper stopped 49 shots and Arizona advanced in the postseason for the first time in eight years.
The Coyotes, the Western Conference’s No. 11 seed, took a 2-0 lead early in the second period. But they allowed Nashville to tie it before going ahead 3-2 on Jordan Oesterle’s goal early in the third. Nashville pulled goalie Juuse Saros late in the period and Filip Forsberg tied it with 32 seconds left.
BLACKHAWKS 3, OILERS 1
EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — Brandon Saad, Matthew Highmore and Dominik Kubalik scored and Chicago beat Edmonton, knocking the Oilers out of the postseason tournament.
The Blackhawks won the best-of-five qualifying series 3-1. Chicago advances to the round of 16.