First the Capitals, now the Penguins. The Canadiens, the team with the worst regular-season record in the playoffs, keep sending home the NHL's best.
Brian Gionta had two power-play goals, Mike Cammalleri scored his seventh goal of a series in which he upstaged Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Montreal built a stunning four-goal lead before beating the Penguins 5-2 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Wednesday night.
Believe it, Canadiens. Disbelieve it, Penguins.
Montreal, about the last team anyone would have picked to beat the top-seeded Capitals, much less the reigning NHL champion Penguins, accomplished what no team has done since the current playoffs format was adopted in 1994. And that's beat the Presidents' Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion in successive rounds as an eighth-seeded team.
When it ended, the Canadiens crowded around goalie Jaroslav Halak, who made 37 saves in a performance not quite as dominating as that in Montreal's 2-1 elimination win of Washington, but one that sent the Penguins home and shut down the NHL's oldest arena.
The Canadiens move on to the Eastern Conference finals against Boston or Philadelphia. The Flyers beat the Bruins 2-1 on Wednesday night to force Game 7.
"I don't claim we're this great team, I don't claim we're perfect and I don't claim that everything we do is on purpose," Cammalleri said. "I think we're just finding ways to win."
The Canadiens trailed 3-2 in the series before rallying to win the final two games, and they finished the upset in style. They silenced the standing room crowd of 17,132 in the last game played at 49-year-old Mellon Arena by seizing a 1-0 lead with only 32 seconds gone after Crosby took a bad penalty on his first shift, then built it to 4-0 with barely 25 minutes gone.
Gionta scored on that Crosby-created power play, Dominic Moore made it 2-0 later in the period and Cammalleri scored his playoff-leading 12th goal at 3:32 of the second.
"Who would expect it? Nobody gave us a chance and here we are," Halak said. "Right now we are going to the conference final, so we should enjoy it."
The tone was set when Crosby was called for driving Josh Gorges into the boards with 10 seconds gone - it was Pittsburgh that took the bad penalties, made the wrong decisions, stood around as the other team skated past them.
When Travis Moen scored on a short-handed breakaway by skating past defenceman Sergei Gonchar, who offered no resistance, and wristing a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury, it was 4-0 with 14:46 remaining in the second, and it looked to be over. It was for Fleury, the Game 7 star of last year's finals against Detroit, after giving up four goals on 13 shots. Brent Johnson replaced him.
Chris Kunitz and Jordan Staal beat Halak for goals later in the second period.
The Canadiens weathered an early third period flurry and later made it 5-2 when Gionta got his second of the game, and seventh in the playoffs, with 10 minutes remaining.
This wasn't the way the Penguins wanted to go out.
Maybe they simply didn't believe a team like the Canadiens could do it - much like the Capitals couldn't. Maybe it was fatigue - the Penguins have played 300-plus games the last three seasons, and enjoyed only two calendar months without hockey since September 2008. That's a lot of time on the ice even for a young team led by two of the NHL's biggest game-changing offensive players.