The Lightning finally played the kind of game their fans have been begging them to play and it couldn't have come at a better time. After racing out to a 3-0 lead in the best of seven series, the Lightning saw Montreal creep back in with two wins, seizing the discarnate concept of momentum in the process. Had the Lightning lost this game, they would have headed back to Montreal for a decisive Game 7 in hostile territory, an unpleasant, unlikely and difficult mission, if not actually impossible. The negative result of which would have been nothing less than a catastrophic occurrence, disastrously impacting the lives of every man, woman, child, dolphin and horseshoe crab in Tampa Bay for centuries. Fire! Volcanoes! Wolves!
As it is, eh, no big deal, they wrapped it up in six.
"It's nice. Obviously the guys have a lot to do with that. I thought that was probably our best game, maybe since Game 1 of the playoffs (vs the Detroit Red Wings). Hopefully we can take this and keep building on it." - Ben Bishop
While it might be kind of silly to compare games in the playoffs, this might have been the Lightning's best all-around outing of the postseason so far. The effort was consistently dynamic from start to finish. Passes were sharp. They possessed the puck for long stretches in the offensive zone and perhaps most important, they effectively utilized their formidable speed to get to places where they wanted to be and capitalized on neutral zone turnovers by Montreal. Nitpickers could cite a few unfortunate turnovers by the Lightning and maybe not as many second chance shots as they might have liked, but doing so well in other facets minimized the potential impact of those flaws. Montreal was the team that had to resort to trying to dump the puck and hope something good might happen for a change. Plus, it's always nice when Lightning goalie Ben Bishop is as good as he was in net tonight, stopping 18 of the 19 shots that came his way.
The Lightning got their first goal from Nikita Kucherov on an assist from Ondrej Palat at 15:35 of the first.
Steven Stamkos netted the team's second goal at 5:12 of the second, getting helpers from Alex Killorn and Matthew Carle.
The Bolts power play cashed in at 18:56 with a goal from Palat with assists from Kucherov and Anton Stralman.
Max Pacioretty finally solved Bishop at 15:03, as Canadiens goalie Carey Price was leaving the ice for an extra attacker. Brendan Gallagher was credited with the lone assist.
With enough time remaining for Montreal to get back into the game at that point, Kucherov would eventually put a lid on the proceedings with an empty net goal at 17:59.
"It's exciting. I've always talked about how 2011 was the most fun I've ever had playing this game. We're getting right on that right now. Obviously, I want a little better result this time but this group has been resilient all year. We've got a guy like Bish back in the net; we've got to believe that anything is possible here. Obviously going to be paying close attention to the game tomorrow and we're excited." - Stamkos
- If the Capitals beat the Rangers, the Lightning will have home ice in the series and will open with two games at Amalie Arena. If the Rangers win, the series begins in New York where the Rangers will hold the home ice edge.
- The Lightning have won all three times they've held a 3-2 lead in a postseason series, having beaten Washington in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2003 and the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals.
- The Lightning still haven't lost three games in a row this season, regular season or playoffs.
- This was the first game of the series where the Lightning outshot the Canadiens (28 to 19).
- The Lightning were without forward Ryan Callahan who underwent an appendectomy Monday. "Cally's been a warrior for us since he's been here. We miss him out there for sure, but we had his name up on the board before the game as a little inspiration and guys stepped up.
- Jonathan Marchessault made his NHL PLayoffs debut due to Callahan's absence. He posted 11:15 of ice time over 19 shifts.
- This will be the third time the Lightning have played in the Eastern Conference Finals, beating Philadelphia in 2004 and falling to Boston in 2011. Both of those series went a full seven games.
- The Lightning honored Pam and Les Muma as the 48th Lightning Community Heroes of the season during the first period of tonight's game. The Mumas, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the University of South Florida Sport and Entertainment Management Program. The Muma's have made it their mission to help educate the next generation of local business leaders. Graduates of the University of South Florida, Les and Pam have encouraged the brightest young leaders in the community to build their roots in Tampa Bay and strength it with their knowledge. Last year the Muma's donated $25 million to the USF College of Business as a personal thank you to the institution that helped them succeed in life. Their unwavering dedication to the Bay area also extends to helping Tampa General Hospital, championing the hospital's research and care for newborns. Their mission from day one was to inspire and mold young minds to become strong leaders in the community. They've achieved that by timeless hours dedicated to their mission.