Emotional Brendan Gallagher says he takes nothing from ‘moral victories’ after Montreal Canadiens’ Stanley Cup final loss
TAMPA, Fla .– Brendan Gallagher wore the defeat of the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup final on his face. There were red marks on his cheeks, battle scars caused by intense confrontations with the Tampa Bay Lightning over the course of five games. There were his red, puffy eyes, still visible under a folded hat.
“Sorry,” said Gallagher, as one of the team’s more talkative players searched for words after Montreal‘s 1-0 loss on Wednesday night. “It’s tough right now. We have so many players who have worked their entire careers to get there. It’s a tough pill to swallow.”
The Canadians were the surprise of the Stanley Cup playoffs. They recovered from a 3-1 deficit to eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the North Division playoffs. They swept the Winnipeg Jets in the second round. They sent the Vegas Golden Knights home in six games, after the Knights knocked out the best team of the regular season, the Colorado Avalanche. All this after Montreal finished with the 18th best record in the NHL. No one expected much from Canadians – expect Canadians.
âI take nothing away from moral victories,â said Gallagher. âAt the start of the year, when we sat down as a group, our goal was to be here. We expected to be here. No matter what people thought of our team, the expectations were to win this series. “
The Lightning turned out too much in the end. Their 1-0 win in Game 5 to win their second straight Stanley Cup followed a bold overtime victory for the Canadiens in Montreal to avoid the sweep. But the Canadians couldn’t reverse two playoff trends for Tampa Bay: the Lightning went 15-0 in the last two playoffs after a loss; and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy threw a shutout for the fifth time in a row in a decisive game for the Lightning.
The Canadians stood up and watched the Tampa players flood the ice as the horn sounded to end the game, throwing their sticks and gloves to celebrate the championship.
âIt’s no fun watching someone else do what you want to do. Whether you are watching TV or standing on the bench. It’s the same feeling, âsaid goaltender Carey Price.
Price was the team’s most valuable player in three rounds. He finished the Stanley Cup final with a .882 save percentage, although he stopped 29 of 30 shots in Game 5.
âI don’t think I played well enough at the start of the series,â said Price, when asked about the difference in the series for Montreal.
Captain Shea Weber quickly corrected him. “I don’t think that’s the case at all,” he said. “We weren’t good enough in front of Carey.”
This was just another example of the teamwork that illustrated this race for Montreal.
âThere are a lot more talented teams,â said Gallagher. “There is no team that is stronger as a group and with the resilience that we have shown.”
Interim coach Dominique Ducharme believes the trip to the Cup final will benefit Canadians in the long run.
“We have grown a lot as a team. We have to use it in the right way. We want to come back here,” he said, “but with a different result.”