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Montreal Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak shakes hands with Pittsburgh Penguins centre Sidney Crosby after Montreal won Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semi-final series in Pittsburgh on May 12, 2010.

DAVID DENOMA/David Denoma/Reuters

For just the second time in their 100-year history, the Montreal Canadiens have won back-to-back seven-game series in the same playoffs, and the first time they did it - you know where this is going - they won the Stanley Cup.

While the current edition of the Habs is hard to compare to the 1971 team, it would be foolish to bet against them to repeat that squad's exploits; after disposing of the regular-season champions in Round 1, they stifled and muzzled the reigning Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, prevailing 5-2 in Game 7.

The underdog tag can now safely be removed. And with Vancouver's elimination, the "Canada's team" sticker can be applied, if it wasn't already in the minds of many fans.

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"We played Washington, we were supposed to get killed, we played these guys, we were supposed to get killed, it's just nice to be part of a team that gets it done," said defenceman Hal Gill, a key cog in defeating his former squad.

As they await either the Philadelphia Flyers or the Boston Bruins, the Habs aren't about to admit to feeling satisfied - as Gill said: "It doesn't mean anything if you don't win the whole thing … it's all about the big one."

Which is not to say they aren't buoyed after becoming just the fifth team in NHL history to win two seventh games on the road in the same playoff year.

"We knew what we had in this room," said centre Scott Gomez, adding: "We're not shocked, it's just beginning."

The capper was a thrilling 5-2 Game 7 victory in which they showed the defensive acuity that is becoming their hallmark, but also managed to play attacking hockey and hold the Penguins at arm's length.

Michael Cammalleri scored his league-leading 12th playoff goal on a sublime one-timer, joining Habs immortals Guy Lafleur, Maurice Richard and Jean Béliveau in the record books. Newsy Lalonde's franchise record of 17 looms.

To get to the conference final, the Canadiens endured several sweaty moments - killing off a crucial penalty to open the third period after Pittsburgh had narrowed the gap to 4-2 with some spirited play - but as they have all through the playoffs, they were able to bend rather than break.

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One notable example was goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who on successive penalty kills kept first Sidney Crosby, then Evgeni Malkin at bay with a pair of sparkling leg saves to keep the score 4-2.

Crosby scored 14 points in the opening round of the playoffs, but had just three in seven games against Montreal, which similarly neutralized Alex Ovechkin - in the last game at venerable Mellon Arena, Crosby was held without a point.

And as they have done throughout the postseason, the Habs were able to keep their composure, unlike their befuddled opponents.

Perhaps it was a function of the charged atmosphere, or a desire to send an early message, but regardless of intent, the result of Crosby's thumping of Montreal defenceman Josh Gorges on the boards ten seconds into the game was a raised referee's arm.

It handed the Canadiens an opportunity for a dream start, and within 22 ticks, they seized their chance.

Habs defenceman P.K. Subban took a pass from Scott Gomez, moved around a defender and whipped a backhand that Brian Gionta deftly chipped up and over Penguins netminder Marc-André Fleury.

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Dominic Moore scored Montreal's second - as he did in Game 7 in Washington - and Cammalleri and Travis Moen scored in the second period to chase Fleury. Gionta added a third-period power-play insurance marker.

The Pens would briefly rally behind goals from Chris Kunitz and Jordan Staal - on the power play - but it would be too little, too late.

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More


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