Hurricanes eliminate hapless Canadiens

Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2002

MONTREAL -- Flash from the BBC: Carolina Conquers Canadiens!

Erik Cole, the ''C'' in Carolina's BBC line that includes Rod Brind'Amour and Bates Battaglia, scored twice in the first 3:33 Monday night as the Hurricanes blitzed Montreal for five first-period goals and breezed to an 8-2 victory to win their best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series in six games.

It was the first win in six playoff meetings against the storied Canadiens for the franchise, which entered the NHL in 1979 as the Hartford Whalers and moved to North Carolina five years ago.

The Hurricanes will make the franchise's first appearance in the conference finals against either Toronto or Ottawa. That series is tied 3-3, with the seventh game Tuesday night in Toronto.

After blowing a 3-0 third-period lead at the Molson Centre and losing 4-3 in overtime on Thursday night, the Canadiens were humbled 5-1 at Carolina on Sunday, rendering this hockey-mad city into a somber mood.

Still, Carolina expected the Canadiens to storm out in the first period with the raucous capacity crowd of over 21,000 shaking the Molson Centre with their cheers. But any hope the Canadiens might rally to force a Game 7 was quickly dashed by the enthusiastic rookie from Oswego, N.Y., who scored twice before Montreal took its first shot.

Cole scored his first goal -- and fifth of the playoffs -- just 25 seconds in, easily beating Montreal goalie Jose Theodore after the netminder deflected Brind'Amour's goalmouth pass but was unable to control it in the crease.

Cole made it 2-0 at 3:33, again from right in front, this time off a setup by Battaglia after Theodore and Montreal defenseman Patrice Brisbois misplayed the puck.

Montreal had no answer for the BBC line all series. The trio combined to score 11 of Carolina's 21 goals in the series and finished Game 6 with three goals and six assists.

Sean Hill made it 3-0 at 7:55 on a Carolina power play -- with a huge assist from Montreal's Chad Kilger. The big winger, who was cruising in the slot, deflected Hill's cross-ice pass for Brind'Amour, and it caromed through the skates of defenseman Stephane Quintal in the crease and past a startled Theodore.

Josef Vasicek made it 4-0 with just over five minutes left in the period after another Montreal miscue. Cole intercepted a blind pass by Craig Rivet in the neutral zone and was stopped by Theodore, but Vasicek easily backhanded the rebound home.

It was almost too easy. The hometown fans must have thought so, too, as many streamed for the exits after Kevyn Adams scored his first goal of the postseason, deking past Rivet and scoring at 18:15 to make it 5-0.

It marked the first time the Canadiens allowed five goals in a period in the playoffs since the Whalers accomplished the feat at home on April 10, 1988, in a 7-5 victory.

Quintal finally scored for the Canadiens with 11 seconds remaining in the period off a goalmouth feed from Yanic Perreault, who sat out Game 5 with a stomach virus.

Theodore, the hero for the Canadiens in the series until the team fell apart in front of him in Game 4, was replaced by Stephane Fiset to start the second period. Theodore, who allowed the five goals on 13 shots, came back in with 1:39 left and the Montreal fans gave him a loud ovation as the Canadiens' season ended.

Canadiens center Doug Gilmour received the loudest ovation after Sheldon Souray and Oleg Petrov failed to convert his goalmouth pass four minutes into the second period. Gilmour was penalized for tripping after the play and shattered the penalty-box glass when he slammed the door in disgust, causing a 15-minute delay.

Battaglia made it 6-1 at 5:57 of the second off an assist by Ron Francis, who became the franchise's all-time leading scorer in the playoffs with 32 points, one more than Kevin Dineen.

Hill made it 7-1 off a rebound with 7:43 left in the second on another power play and Jeff O'Neill upped it to 8-1 with an unassisted goal with eight seconds left in the period.

Montreal had several good scoring chances, and made it 8-2 on Donald Audette's power-play goal at 5:44 of the third. But Arturs Irbe again stood tall in the nets for the Hurricanes, finishing with 31 saves.

Irbe allowed only four goals on 75 shots since replacing Kevin Weekes at the start of the second period in Game 4.

Notes: Battaglia leads Carolina with 13 points in the playoffs. ... The Hurricanes tied the mark for the most goals Montreal has allowed in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Chicago beat them 8-7 in Game 5 of the 1973 finals. The eight goals also were the most goals allowed by the Canadiens all season. ... Montreal's most lopsided playoff loss was 7-0 at Seattle in 1919.

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