First goals are always important in playoff games as they can change a team’s game plan and force them to take chances when they don’t want to, especially when staring at a Vezina-caliber goaltender in the opposing net. On Monday night it was the Tampa Bay Lightning drawing first blood in their series-opening game against the Montreal Canadiens.
Oddly enough it wasn’t one of their big guns who beat Carey Price, rather defense-first Erik Cernak.
Erik Cernak gives the Lightning a 1-0 lead. The play starts with Brayden Point in the defensive zone #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/1CUW9U44lK— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) June 29, 2021
It was the type of goal that should make Jon Cooper super happy. It started in their own zone with a nice backcheck by a forward, in this case Brayden Point, and then the players quickly transitioned to offense with the defense joining the rush.
Cernak moved it through the neutral zone before dishing it off to Ondrej Palat. Instead of stopping there, Cernak kept going to the net, put himself in position to receive a tricky little pass from Palat and deflected it past Price’s glove hand. A textbook Lightning goal.
With the way Montreal forechecks agressively, getting turnover high in the Lightning zone can lead to some golden opportunities to counter the other way. It’s important that they cash in like they did in the first period.