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Montreal streets awash with celebration, tear gas as Habs eliminate Golden Knights in overtime

Click to play video: '‘Stanley Cup Fever’ sweeps Montreal, as Habs hope to advance to Stanley Cup finals' ‘Stanley Cup Fever’ sweeps Montreal, as Habs hope to advance to Stanley Cup finals
The Montreal Canadians are one step closer in their mission to end a 28-year Stanley Cup drought. As Dan Spector explains, excitement is building among hockey fans across Montreal. – Jun 24, 2021

In Montreal, jubilant Habs fans spilled into the streets outside the Bell Centre as their beloved Canadiens head to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1993.

There was heavy police presence in the downtown core — where a handful of streets were closed off to traffic early after the first period — as chants of “Olé, Olé, Olé” filled the air by a throng of Montrealers donning red, white and blue.

Montreal police say “targeted interventions” were underway at the end of the game after projectiles were allegedly thrown at officers. People were asked to avoid the area and tear gas was used to disperse the crowd, according to spokesperson Manuel Couture.

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Video on social media also showed a Montreal police car tipped onto its side. One person could be seen kicking the car, while another person threw a safety barrel at it.

The Habs, considered the underdog in the NHL playoffs, beat the Vegas Golden Knights in a 3-2 upset in overtime Thursday night, putting an end to the third round and sending the favoured team back home to Sin City.

The crowd outside the arena jumped up and down after Artturi Lehkonen scored the winning goal at 1:39 of overtime. Fireworks lit up the downtown sky and beer spilled into the air.

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The victory also happens to coincide with Quebec’s Fête nationale, a statutory holiday that brings its own wave of festivities to the city every year. It also comes as Montreal gradually reopens from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the hours before puck drop, fans gathered outside the Bell Centre on the sun-soaked evening, with many wearing Canadiens jerseys, waving the province’s fleur-de-lis flag — or both.

READ MORE: Call of the Wilde — Canadiens advance to Stanley Cup Finals with 3-2 win over Golden Knights

On the advice of Montreal police, the Canadiens had the 3,500 fans in attendance stay inside the building well after Lehkonen scored.

After the game, stand-in-coach Luke Richardson said he knew it was “a little crazy” outside but urged fans to stay safe.

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“It’s such a special day to celebrate but let’s make sure we all celebrate responsibly and get home safe.”

The unexpected journey for the Canadiens has captivated the city and the hockey world. In the first round, Montreal came back to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs. That was followed by a quick sweep of the Winnipeg Jets.

Flags of Quebec and the Montreal Canadiens fly in a crowd of several thousand as they watch the pre-game outside the Bell Centre in Montreal prior to game 6 NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey semifinal action against the Vegas Golden Knights, in Montreal, Thursday, June 24, 2021. Peter McCabe/The Canadian Press

The third round was trickier, but the North Division’s fourth seed headed into the sixth and final game with a 3-2 series lead after clinching a victory Tuesday night in Vegas.

“It feels good,” Quebec Premier François Legault wrote on Twitter shortly after Vegas was eliminated from the playoffs.

Montreal is the first Canadian team in 10 years to advance to the final. The Habs were also the country’s last Stanley Cup winner, capturing the title in 1993.

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The storied club will face the winner of the semifinal series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders, which heads to a Game 7 on Friday.

— With files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez, The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

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