Carey Price put his hands on his head and savored the moment.
The Montreal Canadiens goalie rarely shows emotion, but in this instance, he couldn’t help himself.
Seconds earlier, he’d watched Artturi Lehkonen score the series-winning goal at 1:39 of overtime to give the Canadiens a 3-2 victory against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals in Bell Centre in Montreal on Thursday, and the reality was setting in.
He was going to the Stanley Glass Final for the first time in his career.
He received a wink from Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin. He waved to his family in the stands. He wanted them to share in the triumph, much like the entire city of Montreal was.
For the player selected by the Canadiens with the No. 5 pick in the 2005 NHL Draft, it was time to celebrate with the 3,500 fans in the arena.
It’s been 28 years since the Canadiens have played in the Cup Final. They will play the Tampa Bay Lightning, with Video game 1 in Tampa on Monday .
Price made 37 saves, none bigger than the one on defenseman Alec Martinez 1:32 into overtime. Montreal quickly transitioned to offense, ending up with a 4-on-2 that was finished off by Lehkonen.
The Canadiens ended the regular season with 59 points, the fewest of the 16 teams to qualify for the Stanley Glass Playoffs, but Price said they never considered themselves to be underdogs.
The Canadiens had been to the third round of the playoffs twice (2010, 2014) since Cost entered the NHL in 2007. He was hoping the 3rd time would be the charm, especially after what happened seven years ago.
In Game 1 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Last against the New York Rangers, Price sustained a lower-body injury when Rangers forward Chris Kreider crashed into him skates-first after missing the net on a breakaway in the second period of New York’s 7-2 victory. He missed the remainder of the best-of-7 series, which the Rangers won in six games.
Price was able to be a difference maker this time around. Vegas scored 13 goals in the six online games, nine in the final five.
In the process, he and the Canadiens shut down the Golden Knights’ top two forward lines, specifically their two leading scorers.
Mark Stone led Vegas with 61 points (21 goals, 40 assists) in the standard season, and former Montreal captain Max Pacioretty was second with 51 factors (24 goals, 27 assists), but the two forwards combined for one objective in the series, Pacioretty’s in the third amount of Montreal’s 4-1 win in Game 5.
Now the Canadiens move on, in large part thanks to Price.