Canada’s long wait for Stanley Cup’s return gets longer with Montreal’s exit

The Stanley Cup will be staying south of the border for yet another year.

Canada’s last hope at reclaiming the NHL championship trophy went down in flames Saturday night when the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Montreal Canadiens 6-4, winning the second-round series in five games.

Montreal’s loss extends Canada’s Cup drought to 14 long seasons. The Canadiens were the last Canadian team to take hockey’s biggest prize, beating the Los Angeles Kings in five games in the 1993 Cup final.

Police in Montreal were on high alert for trouble after the series against the Boston Bruins ended April 21 with victory and a spate of vandalism and arson targeting police vehicles.

But defeat at the hands of the Flyers seemed to drain the crowd of much of its energy as fans quietly strolled in the cool night at 10:30 p.m.

“Everything is going quite well, there are no major incidents to report so far,” said police spokeswoman Anie Lemieux.

“There’s a lot of traffic downtown, but it’s all going very well so far.”

This season’s playoffs have been particularly disappointing for Canadian hockey fans. The nation was represented in the previous three finals, with the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators all going down in defeat in their quest to bring the Cup home.

This year, no Canadian team was even close. Three teams, the Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks, didn’t even make it to the post-season.

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Of the three teams that did make it, only the Canadiens survived to see the second round. The Senators were dumped in four straight games by the high-flying Pittsburgh Penguins while the gutsy Flames ultimately lost in seven games to the heavily-favoured San Jose Sharks.

The Canadiens themselves were almost eliminated in their first series. Though they finished as the top seed in the Eastern Conference, they blew a 3-1 series lead to the eight-place Boston Bruins and needed a big 5-0 win over their hated rivals in Game 7 to move on.

The Canadiens came into their series with the Flyers heavily favoured and dominated everywhere but the scoreboard. In the end, the hot play of Flyers goalie Martin Biron and the shaky goaltending of Habs rookie Carey Price was the difference as the Flyers, who were last overall in the league last season, earned an improbable Eastern Conference final appearance.

“I can blame Carey and a lot of people,” said Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau, who called Saturday’s game his club’s worst defensive effort of the series. “We want our goaltenders to be better.

“But in a few weeks, there will be 29 teams saying the same thing. Only one team can win the Stanley Cup.”

And once again, it won’t be a Canadian team.