In the beginning, there was a pretty good start. In the end, there was a thrilling, last-second finish. And in the middle, goaltender Ben Bishop held it all together once again. With that, Tampa Bay finds themselves the owners of a 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven second round playoff series against Atlantic Division champions, the Montreal Canadiens.
"That was the proverbial 'sometimes it's not how, it's how many', and that's what that one turned out to be tonight." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
The Lightning came out strong and the hard work paid off relatively early when Alex Killorn scored the first goal of the game on an assist from Steven Stamkos at the 12:00 minute mark.
That lead would hold up all the way until midway through the third period, during which the Lightning plagued themselves with a lack of intensity, some bad passing and an inability to gain or maintain footing in Montreal's zone. And to their credit, if the Canadiens' mission was to cut down on the lack of discipline that was their undoing in Game 2 on Sunday, they learned their lesson extremely well, picking up a mere six penalty minutes over the course of the game (the Lightning only accrued four of their own). Overall, Montreal dominated play during the middle period and most of the third. The difference was the play of Bishop who faced 31 shots on the night, coming up with fantastic saves over and over again. On the other end of the ice, Montreal's Carey Price only saw 19 shots.
At 10:03 of the final period, Montreal's Brendan Gallagher managed to finally push the puck past Bishop, getting help from Tom Gilbert and Greg Pateryn.
As time dwindled in the period, particularly the final minute, the Lightning's play improved and they were finally able to apply some offensive pressure. And with all of 1.1 seconds remaining, Tyler Johnson skated in on Price and netted the game winner on assists from Victor Hedman and Ondrej Palat.
"I was driving to the net, (Hedman) was coming in wide. I saw that there was going to be somewhat of a lane. I was just praying (the puck) was going to come to me and he made a great play, found my stick and I was able to put it in." - Johnson
With the win, the Lightning now hold a 3-0 lead in the series against the team that swept them from the playoffs in the first round last season.
"Obviously, we're excited about the win, but we're not very proud of the way we played. They were a desperate hockey team, had more chances than we did today. They knew their backs were against the wall, they played like it and we didn't respond that great." - Stamkos
The series continues with Game Four tomorrow night at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
- Everybody knows this of course, but it's impossible to overstate it: since being swept in the opening round of last year's playoffs, the Lightning have posted eight consecutive wins against Montreal, 5-0 in the regular season and 3-0 so far in this year's playoffs.
- Bishop's career record vs Montreal is 13-1-2.
- Very few opportunities for either team in this game, but neither was able to convert on the power play.
- Tomorrow is an unusual instance of back-to-back postseason games. During the regular season, the Canadiens were 8-7-1 in the first games of back-to-backs and 8-4-4 in the follow-ups. The Lightning were 9-3-1 and 5-8-0.
- Johnson leads the NHL with eight goals scored in the playoffs.
- The Lightning honored MacDill Air Force Base as the 46th Lightning Community Hero of the season during the first period of tonight's game. The $50,000 donation that comes with the Community Hero award is being donated to the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Foundation, in support of Air Fest 2016. For 75 years MacDill Air Force Base has been committed to keeping the community, nation and free-world safe and secure. The base is home to the 6th Air Mobility Force which provides vital mid-air refueling to our forces. It is also home to the U.S. Central and U.S. Special Operations Commands and 36 other mission partners. More than 14,000 dedicated individuals currently work at MacDill, contributing to the Tampa Bay economy and the local community. The Community Hero funding is supporting AirFest, the base's annual Air Fest which has educated millions of visitors to the inner workings of the base and has inspired generations of children to serve for their country.