Sweeping a playoff series is hard; the opponent is a playoff team too, which means they're pretty good. So is beating one team nine times in a row; laws of diminishing returns and probability indexes and all that. Also, not easy is winning back-to-back games; nobody particularly enjoys having to play back-to-back. Winning a game under any circumstances is extremely difficult when you don't play very well; the Lightning did not play very well Thursday night. They didn't play that well in Wednesday night's Game 3 win either but hoping to hang around long enough to "steal" a game is not a strategy that is going to yield positive results most of the time. Don't forget to give due credit to the Montreal Canadiens for making the emphatic statement that they had no intention of accepting a four-game sweep as the end of their season.
"We didn't play well. The start wasn't bad but you can't fall behind the way we did and expect to win. We knew this coming in, that this wasn't going to be an easy game, and they showed why it wasn't going to be easy with the way they played and their effort. We didn't match it." - Steven Stamkos
Maybe not a "bad" start but things got off on a sour note for the Lightning when Andrei Markov converted at 2:44 on the Canadiens first shot of the night, which is never a good sign. He was assisted by P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty on the play.
Just six minutes later and it was 2-0 Montreal on a goal by Pacioretty, assisted by Tom Gilbert.
With three more unanswered goals coming in the second period, (David Desharnais assisted by Dale Weise, Jeff Petry assisted by Alex Galchenyuk and Subban and Brendan Gallagher assisted by Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec), down 5-0 and facing the Canadiens' Carey Price, it was pretty much over with half a game left to play. Lightning starting goaltender Ben Bishop was lifted after the Desharnais goal, having given up three goals on 14 shots. He was replaced by Andrei Vasilevskiy, making his first NHL Playoffs appearance, who went on to surrender three goals on the 26 shots he faced.
"It was a back-to-back. I sit there and look at the goals, Pacioretty's got a breakaway, that's a big-time shot. Even Markov, those aren't his (Bishop's) fault. That was a complete cluster in the D-zone. We just completely broke down and gave them an easy one. So that's not his fault. He's played a lot of hockey. It's just game, game, game, game and then we've got a back-to back. I thought 'maybe we'll get a spark out of this'. But it definitely wasn't because of Bishop's play." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
The Lightning got a power play goal from Nikita Kucherov at 12:26 of the second, getting helpers from Ondrej Palat and Anton Stralman and another from Palat just 17 seconds into the third to cut the lead to three but would get no closer. Tyler Johnson and Steven Stamkos picked up assists on Palat's goal.
Brandon Prust finished things off for the Canadiens, scoring at 4:52 of the third on assists from Lars Eller and P.A. Parenteau.
"It's a resilient team over there. Their backs are against the wall. We stole one last game and probably didn't deserve to win. Definitely didn't deserve to win tonight, and we got what's coming. No point in dwelling on it now.We didn't expect this to be a quick series at the beginning, and we've got to find a way to win in a rink where we've won the last couple of times. We definitely played better there than we did here for whatever reason. Hopefully we can keep that trend going." - Stamkos
The series continues Saturday in Montreal with a 7 PM start time.
- This was the third time in franchise history that the Lightning have had a 3-0 lead in a playoff series and the first time they were unable to close it out with a win in Game 4.
- As mentioned above, this ends the Lightning's winning streak over the Canadiens at eight games. Their last loss to Montreal was in Game 4 of the opening round of the 2014 NHL Playoffs.
- Also broken was the Lightning's five-game postseason winning streak, the second longest such streak in franchise history.
- Each of Montreal's skaters recorded at least one shot on goal.
- Ryan Callahan and Victor Hedman were even on the night with every other Lightning skater recording a minus.
- The Lightning honored Tom James as the 47th 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 All Children's Hospital, Metropolitan Ministries, Tampa General Hospital and the Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Academy. Tonight's community hero has been the hero that Tampa Bay needs whenever it needs him. As the former CEO and current chairman of Raymond James, Tom James heads one of Tampa Bay's largest firms, with more than 3,300 local employees and thousands more worldwide. Not only does James give back with his money and time, he also inspires his employees to volunteer and to get involved giving back as well. For 25 years James has been a staunch supporter of the United Way by personally matching his employees' donations. He also gives back to the arts and education sector in the area, supporting worthy causes like The Salvador Dali Museum, the Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation and countless others.