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.
Montreal C Jake Evans, who left Game 3 in the second period after taking a hard hit from Brandon Tanev, did not play for the Canadiens. ... Pittsburgh tweaked its lines, moving right wing Patric Hornqvist to the second line, dropping right wing Conor Sheary to the third line and re-inserting center Jared McCann iback into the lineup after he sat out Game 3. ... Jarry is the second goalie in team history to make his first playoff start in an elimination game, joining Frank Pietrangelo, who started Game 6 of Pittsburgh’s first-round matchup with New Jersey. The Penguins won the next two games on their way to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. ... Pittsburgh killed all 12 penalties it faced during the series.
Canadiens: Get a shot at the Flyers or the Lightning with momentum and a hot goalie in Price.
Penguins: Head into an extended layoff with plenty of questions to answer on a roster where the core that’s won three Cups since 2009 is now well into its 30s.