Nikita Kucherov is finally on the board.
While the Tampa Bay Lightning are still looking for the first tally from their captain and leading goal-scorer from the regular season, it's nice to have another third of the still-excellent second line on the board in the playoffs.
A nicely placed shot from the high slot off a feed from Valtteri Filppula eluded Carey Price just a few minutes into the second overtime session as the Lightning managed to steal home ice out from under the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of their second round series.
The Habs raced out of the gate in the 1st period, carrying the balance of play and forcing Ben Bishop to make a handful of saves very early, which, for some reason, brought out the "Ben Bishop looks shaky" crowd yet again.
Shots in the period ultimately finished 12-10 in favor of the Lightning, who pushed back nicely in the back half of the first period after they killed off a Brian Boyle interference penalty. Both teams -- who entered play in this series with the two worst power plays remaining in the playoffs -- failed miserably on man-advantage chances in the first two periods, which kept the game knotted at goose eggs through 40 minutes, with both goaltenders stealing the show on a handful of highlight-worthy saves.
Tyler Johnson finally broke through early in the third period, after a series of nice keep-ins and pinches by Andrej Sustr and Matt Carle. Carle fired a long wrist shot towards the net that Johnson redirected past Price for the 1-0 lead.
The Lightning built a bit of momentum following the goal, but then quickly receded into a defensive shell, letting the Habs dictate the pace of play in the game's final 12 or so minutes. They paid dearly for it when a seemingly harmless wrist shot from the half wall by Max Pacioretty went in and out of Ben Bishop's glove and dropped just over the goal line to tie the game, sending Habs fans into a frenzy and the game eventually to overtime.
The referees ruled that Price was pushed into the net by Kucherov, though by the look on Jon Cooper's face one would certainly think he believed it was Price's own momentum that caused that result.
Play would carry on, however, and Carey Price and Ben Bishop continued to give the fans at Bell Centre their money's worth. Bishop made two more unbelievable saves on Brendan Gallagher and Max Pacioretty following the disallowed goal, though Bishop did look a bit shaken up afterwards. He also took a rising shot from David Desharnais straight off the mask which downed him briefly, but he remained in the game through the end of the first overtime session.
Double overtime would have to favor the Canadiens, who had considerably more rest after Round 1 by virtue of downing the Ottawa Senators, but it was the Lightning who jumped off the opening faceoff and controlled the puck, eventually working it into Montreal's end to set up Kucherov for the game-winner.
Game 2 is Sunday at 6:00 PM Eastern.
- Let's get this out of the way right away:
NHL ruling pic.twitter.com/1zmuHDmrDm— Dave Stubbs (@Dave_Stubbs) May 2, 2015
- Nothing constructive can come from discussing this event in tonight's game further. Moving on...
- ...because the Lightning sure did look to be offside on the entry that eventually led to the winner.
- Tyler Johnson didn't take faceoffs after returning from a hit to his side; it's unclear if a potential injury is to his hand, or shoulder, or even his knee which hyperextended. But he did not take draws; Ondrej Palat took some faceoffs for his line and Jon Cooper sent Brian Boyle out to take draws and change when he could. It worked as a one-game patch but Johnson's health is a serious concern in the series moving forward.
- Hockey and numbers and win probability. Hard to quantify this stuff, but stealing home ice is *huge*.
That goal caused a 31.16% swing in probable outcomes for TB... Win they're at 71.29% to win the series, lose they're at 40.13%.— Stephen Burtch (@SteveBurtch) May 2, 2015
- The goal the Habs did score was absolutely awful, but take a step back and appreciate just how good Ben Bishop was, stopping the rest of Montreal's 43 shots on goal (including a handful of incredibly dangerous scoring chances) for a .977 save percentage and the Game 1 win. Like Johnson, though, he took a few hits in the game and his health is something to monitor.
- Brenden Morrow and Vlad Namestnikov both skated fewer than 6 minutes of total ice time in a hockey game that lasted 82. Why? It worked in the end but Tampa Bay is going to exhaust the top of their lineup. Why scratch a guy like Jonathan Drouin or Nikita Nesterov if you're only going to play your 4th line a few minutes a night?