NHL playoffs: Eastern Conference semifinals come down to Game 7

The 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs have been tremendously competitive thus far, with the first-round featuring three Game 7s to go along with one of the biggest playoff collapses in NHL history (Sharks fans are profoundly underrated when it comes to tortured fanbases). That pattern has continued into the conference semifinals, where both series in the Eastern Conference will come down to a win-or-go-home Game 7.

The Montreal Canadiens set up their series-deciding game with a decisive 4-0 home win over the Boston Bruins on Monday night. Thomas Vanek, Lars Eller, and Max Pacioretty all scored for Montreal, while netminder Carey Price recorded 26 saves in the shutout.

Montreal capitalized on a turnover to take the 1-0 lead early in the first period and energize the home crowd. Throughout the game, Boston clanged shots off the posts, while Canadiens were able to exploit the Bruins mistakes and score, much to the chagrin of Boston coach Claude Julien.

“I didn’t like the way [Montreal] got their goals tonight,” Julien said. “We could have been better in regards to that, but from our end, I thought we had more lines going tonight than we’ve had this whole series. We spent a lot of offensive zone time, had some chances. Again, if you hit posts and miss open nets, you’ve got to bury those chances and tonight they came back to haunt us.”

Boston will look to correct those mistakes and advance to their third Eastern Conference finals in four years when they host Montreal in Game 7 on Wednesday. The puck is scheduled to drop in that game at 7 p.m. EST.

Hockey fans are already bracing for another Game 7 tonight, as the New York Rangers look to complete an improbable comeback against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens took a commanding 3-1 series lead, only to be blown out 5-1 in Game 5 and drop Game 6 in New York 3-1.

The Game 6 win on Mother’s Day was an emotional victory for winger Martin St. Louis, whose mother died unexpectedly last week. He scored the first goal of the game and was cheered on consistently from the supportive home crowd.

"Mother's Day, my dad's here, my sister's here, it's been a tough time for my whole family," St. Louis said after the game. "To be able to get the lead in the first period, it was a good one."

Tonight’s environment is sure to be markedly different, with Pittsburgh fans cheering on a team that many expected to hoist the Stanley Cup this season. That game tips off at 7 p.m. EST tonight on NBCSN.

In the Western Conference, the defending Stanley Cup champs the Chicago Blackhawks are up 3-2 over the Minnesota Wild and look to close out that series in Game 6 tonight at 9 p.m. EST, while the Anaheim Ducks have rallied from an 0-2 hole to win three straight and push the Los Angeles Kings to the brink. Game 6 in that series will be played Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. EST.