Time: 8:00 PM Eastern
Location: Centre Bell
Broadcast/Streaming: NBC, CBC, TVAS, SN
Opponent SB Nation Site: HabsEyesOnThePrize
The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night in an opportunistic way and have a chance to take a commanding 3-0 lead in tonight’s game. They also got closer to leaving their footprint in the NHL history as a team with back-to-back Stanley Cups. Between them and this chance, however, stands the Canadiens home crowd, which even at partial capacity will be relentlessly rooting for their team. For the Lightning it will be the first game in Canada since the last game of the cancelled 2019-20 regular season against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 10, 2020.
After losing Game One, the Habs played a very strong game against the Lightning. They led the Bolts in shot volume and expected goal share and even had a slight advantage in dangerous chances, which usually is the Lightning’s area of interest. However, they couldn’t convert chances to actual goals, while the Lightning used most of their chances, punishing the Canadiens for every mistake.
But the biggest difference-maker for the Lightning was once again Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Russian goaltender didn’t make highlights with flashy saves this time, but had his head in the game through all 60 minutes, allowing just one goal (caused by an unfortunate rebound) on 43 shots. Before the start of the Stanley Cup Final there were some opinions that due to the Canadiens’ defensive-orientated style of play, the Conn Smythe narrative might shift away from him, but Vasilevskiy’s Game Two performance has put him right at the top of the conversation. According to Natural Stat Trick, Vasilevskiy saved 2.1 goals above expected on Wednesday night and stayed at his usual pace of one goal saved above expected per game during the playoffs.
Another thing which has gotten the Lightning this far for the second straight year is their ability to adjust after bad games. The Canadiens managed to defend very well against Brayden Point’s line, limiting them only 43.48 CF% in Game Two, but Nikita Kucherov already spent a lot of time watching videos of the previous game, reflecting on his own play and will return angrier for tonight’s game.
Alex Killorn is still questionable. The Lightning’s forward will travel to Montreal with the team, but Jon Cooper refused to talk more about his current status. He also didn’t share much about other dinged up players like Tyler Johnson or Ross Colton.
The Canadiens on the other side are expecting the return of their coach Dominique Ducharme, who spent the previous two weeks in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19
Tampa Bay Lightning Lines and Pairings
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Tyler Johnson - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos
Barclay Goodrow - Yanni Gourde - Blake Coleman
Pat Maroon - Ross Colton - Mathieu Joseph
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - David Savard
Montreal Canadiens Lines and Pairings
Artturi Lehkonen - Phillip Danault - Brendan Gallagher
Tyler Toffoli - Nick Suzuki - Cole Caufield
Paul Byron - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Josh Anderson
Joel Armia - Eric Staal - Corey Perry
Ben Chiarot - Shea Weber
Joel Edmundson - Jeff Petry
Erik Gustafsson - Jon Merrill