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Wednesday July 28th, 2021 3:42AM

Toffoli's OT goal leads Canadiens to series sweep of Jets

By The Associated Press
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MONTREAL (AP) — Tyler Toffoli scored at 1:39 of overtime, lifting the Montreal Canadiens to a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night and a four-game sweep of their second-round playoff series.

Toffoli took a cross-crease pass from Cole Caufield and beat Connor Hellebuyck with a one-timer for the winner and his fourth goal of the postseason.

“I think that’s definitely one of the bigger ones,” Toffoli said of his series-clinching goal. “It’s fun right now. We’re doing a good job. It just feels like we’re all kind of playing as one. We just have to continue like this. Hopefully, we just keep having success and keep winning games.”

Erik Gustafsson and Artturi Lehkonen scored in regulation for Montreal, which has won seven straight playoff games since trailing Toronto 3-1 in the opening round. Toffoli, who scored 28 times in the regular season, also had an assist.

Carey Price made 14 saves for the North Division’s No. 4 seed in front of another boisterous crowd of 2,500 fans at the Bell Centre.

“These guys are playing as well as any team has ever played,” Price said.

The 16th and final team to qualify for the playoffs after winning just one of their final nine regular-season games in regulation, the Canadiens are the first club to make the semifinals of the Stanley Cup tournament this year.

“Winning the fourth game is always the hardest one,” defenseman Shea Weber said. “Going through playoff series, you know that when a team is down and they’ve got their back against the wall, they’re going to bring their best effort. It’s always the hardest one to close out. You don’t want to give a team too many chances because things can turn around really quickly.”

Montreal awaits the winner of the Colorado-Vegas series, which is tied 2-2. Game 5 is Tuesday night in Denver.

The Canadiens improved to 34-0 all-time when leading a series 3-0, and added to their NHL record with the franchise’s 23rd sweep.

“It’s just one of those things where we just don’t care who gets the job done for us,” Toffoli said. “We have everybody going. Everybody’s playing the right way. We’re just winning games and just playing. Honestly, we’re all playing our best hockey at the right time, so we’ve just got to keep going.”

Rookie defenseman Logan Stanley had two goals for Winnipeg, which was coming of a sweep of its own in the first round against Edmonton.

“I think it’s all bitter right now,” Stanley said. “In the playoffs, it doesn’t matter who scores. You win as a team and you lose as a team. I’m glad I got a couple by (Price) to try to help the team. But at the end of the day, we lost to the team, so it stings right now.”

The Jets were without No. 1 center Mark Scheifele after he was suspended four games for charging Montreal forward Jake Evans in the series opener.

Hellebuyck stopped 39 shots.

Montreal opened the scoring on the power play at 8:01 of the first period on Gustafsson’s first career playoff goal, and first with the Canadiens since being acquired from Philadelphia before the trade deadline. After Winnipeg's Nate Thompson failed to get the puck out of his own zone, the Canadiens worked it back to Gustafsson, who pump-faked a one-timer before changing the angle and firing through a screen on Hellebuyck.

Montreal made it 2-0 with 51 seconds left in the period when Lehkonen won a battle for positioning in front — something Winnipeg was unable to do at either end of the ice throughout the series — and tipped Brett Kulak’s point shot for his second goal in as many games.

Stanley cut the Jets' deficit to 2-1 when he took a pass and moved down to the left circle before wiring a shot upstairs on Price’s short side just 1:40 into the second.

Stanley, who had only one NHL goal before Monday, tied it at 2 at 5:29 moments after Hellebuyck made a nice save on Brendan Gallagher when he took a pass from Kyle Connor after coming off the bench and beat Price upstairs on a one-timer.

“They’re playing at a really high level right now," Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler said of Montreal. "You just have to give them all the credit. We just couldn’t get the first goal. We just couldn’t do it all series. That plays right into their hands.”

INJURIES

The Canadiens were without D Jeff Petry (upper-body injury) after he appeared to jam his right hand caught in one of the camera holes along the glass in Game 3. The veteran’s absence paved the way for rookie Alexander Romanov to make his NHL playoff debut on Montreal’s third line.

NOTES: Montreal’s seven-game playoff winning streak is the franchise’s longest since Patrick Roy led the Canadiens to 11 consecutive victories on the way to capturing Canada’s last Cup in 1993. ... The Jets are 1-6 when facing elimination since returning to the Manitoba capital in 2011.

More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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