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After brief stay with Sabres, Staal reaches Stanley Cup Final with Montreal

The Sabres traded for Staal in the 2020 offseason before sending him to the Canadiens ahead of the 2021 NHL trade deadline.
Credit: AP
Montreal Canadiens player Eric Staal during an NHL hockey game, Friday, April 23, 2021, in Calgary, Canada. (AP Photo/Larry MacDougal)

MONTREAL, QC — For the first time in a decade, a Canadian team is heading to the Stanley Cup Final.

The odds have been stacked against Montreal since they made the postseason as the fourth and final team in the NHL's all-Canadian North Division.

The Canadiens were down 3-1 in their opening series against the top-seeded Toronto Maple Leafs.

Two overtime games and a dominating Game 7 later, the Habs were on to sweep the Winnipeg Jets, then took on the West Division champion Vegas Golden Knights, wrapping up the series in six games with an overtime win Thursday night.

Artturi Lehkonen beat former Sabres goalie Roin Lehner for the win, and now another former Sabre, Eric Staal, is heading to the Final with the Canadiens.

The Sabres traded for the veteran forward to center their second line last offseason, then quickly shuffled him out to Montreal before the trade deadline.

The 36-year-old got what he was hoping for in March: to win games with a contender.

"I just want to just want to win. I want to be out there and win, and be competitive, and try and help our group win games, wherever that is in the lineup," Staal said when he arrived in Montreal.

"I will do what I can. Now I feel like, you know, I've got some game left in me, then I can be a contributor."

Staal scored just three goals over 32 games with the Sabres.

Now he is four wins away from lifting the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes.