For most of the playoffs the Tampa Bay Lightning’s power play has been dominant, scoring at a 40% rate through the first three rounds. Against the Montreal Canadiens, it’s been powered down. They have only scored once so far with an extra skater, and on Monday, it cost them a chance to end the Stanley Cup Final. The Canadiens defended a four-minute Lightning power play at the end of regulation and into overtime before Josh Anderson slid a puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy to give Montreal a 3-2 victory and send the series back to Tampa,
The Lightning battled back from two one-goal deficits as Barclay Goodrow and Patrick Maroon scored, but thanks to a strong game by Carey Price (32 saves) and the posts (the Lightning had three pucks bounce off the iron), the Canadiens emerged victorious in front of their home crowd.
The Lightning started off the game like you want to see a team going for a sweep to look. In the first five minutes of play they had six shots on net. Sadly, Carey Price looked sharp, making a couple of nice saves early on to keep the Bolts off the board. The defense for the the Bolts was aggressive at the own blueline, keeping the play in the neutral zone where the forwards could hunt for turnovers.
It wasn’t until eight minutes into the game that Montreal had their first shot attempt (it was on goal) while the Lightning had mustered thirteen attempts. Still, the dominating start to the game had not generated a lead so Tampa Bay needed to be careful.
Ross Colton had a golden opportunity with about eight minutes to go as he followed up a rebound from an Anthony Cirelli shot. Unfortunately, the rookie sent his wrister just wide of the net. Unlike in previous games, the Lightning weren’t getting much traffic in front of Price and he was able to see the shots heading his way. At the other end of the ice the Montreal Canadiens would get an occasional foray into the Lightning zone, but the Bolts would quickly close and neutralize the threat.
Still, it was a scoreless game and all it would take is one play to energize the home crowd, and they got it on a somewhat broken play. The Habs weren’t able to keep the puck in the Lighting zone and had to regroup in the neutral zone. Off of the re-entry, Nick Suzuki made a nice patient play as he waited for the slightest of lanes and slipped a pass to Josh Anderson who had a step on Mathieu Joseph. Anderson, added to this line for the first time all series, was able to elevate it over Vasilevskiy to give the Canadiens the first lead of the series.
Josh Anderson (NIck Suzuki, Cole Caufield)
The Lightning would draw the first power play (but not the first penalty as Brayden Point and Jake Evans went off for coincidental minor penalties). It was a shooting gallery for the majority of the power play as Nikita Kucherov kept trying to set Point up for the shot from the slot. The first three times was snuffed out, but Point ripped one on net with about ten seconds to go. A little too on net as it pinged off the pipe.
No joy as the power play expired at the same time as the period did. Both teams let each other know that they weren’t overly found of each other as they milled around center ice exchanging expletives and shoves.
Patrick Maroon and Joel Edmundsson began the second period in the penalty box for their post-whistle transgressions and the middle frame began with four skaters aside. Nothing came of the open ice and the two teams settled into a roughly even battle for possession. Brayden Point went back to penalty box for a high-stick, but it was the Lightning with the first chance as Barlcay Goodrow snapped a shot off of Price’s mask short-handed.
The second half of the power play provided some cleaner looks for Montreal but Vasy was there to make the stops. It looked like Point may have been able to generate something coming out of the box, but the puck took forever to get to him and all he was able to do was get plastered against the boards by Shea Weber.
Weber meets up with Point as he gets the puck out of the penalty box pic.twitter.com/q2o5Oo1UNt— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 6, 2021
Montreal was a little more disciplined in their own zone and really bottled up the Lightning attack for most of the second period. Even when the Lightning were on their second power play, they just didn’t allow the road team much room to operate and the skater-advantage went by the wayside without much to get excited about.
The fourth line drew another penalty a few minutes later as Mathieu Joseph was hauled down by Joel Armia on the forecheck. After winning the face-off the Lightning were able to set up in the zone and generated more chances in the first thirty seconds than they did in all two minutes of the previous power play. Unfortunately, Price made a nice save on Kucherov.
Victor Hedman banged one off the post and then off of Point, the Swede’s big shot felling the Lightning star. While the power play didn’t score it did give them a little momentum. Then Ryan McDonagh (the former Canadiens draft pick) had a heck of a shift.
First he pinched in to keep the play in the Montreal zone. Then he joined the attack to give the Lightning numbers down low and screen Price on a shot from Blake Coleman. Finally he fed a dandy of a pass to Barclay Goordrow, giving the winger an open net to put the puck into.
Barclay Goodrow (Ryan McDonagh, Blake Coleman)
So. The third period. Yeah, that’s the good stuff. With the way the team’s were playing in the first forty minutes it had the sense of a sudden death period. Eight minutes into the period a little dust-up in front of Price led to the entire Gourde line going into the penalty box along with three Canadiens.
Unlike the four-on-four earlier in the night, a team took advantage of the players in the box and scored. Alex Romanov, one of the players inserted into the line-up for this game, wired a puck on net that Vasilevskiy never saw due to a screen by Artturi Lehkonen. 2-1 Montreal.
Alex Romanov (Jake Evans)
Play continued for several minutes without a whistle, meaning those six players in the penalty box had to stay in the box. For Montreal, that meant they were down to just four defenseman. Could that have led to what happened next?
Montreal failed to get the puck in deep leading to a two-on-one for the Bolts forth line. They were able to stop the play at the blueline and quickly turn it up ice, catching the Canadiens in an odd-skater rush. Mathieu Joseph slid a perfect pass to Patrick Maroon who popped it into the net before Price could stretch over to block it. Just like that, it was tied.
Patrick Maroon (Mathieu Joseph, Tyler Johnson)
Oh boy, what a goal by the Big Rig and his buddies. With the fourth line tying things up it was the top line that almost put them ahead. First it was Palat sliding one just wide and then Kucherov, all alone at the post to Price’s left, deflected one off of that very post he was camped out by.
With one minutes to go, off of a face-off in the Montreal end, Canadiens’ captain Shea Weber got his stick up in the face of Palat and drew blood.
Weber high sticks Palat giving the Lightning a four-minute power play pic.twitter.com/dkt4UFH0vl— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 6, 2021
After a quick review on the iPad, the officials sent the veteran to the penalty box and he had to watch as his teammates tried to fend off one of the bet power play units in the game, which they did for the remainder of the period. Steven Stamkos had the best chance as he ripped a one-timer over the net.
Overtime....ugghh. It took roughly a minute and a half for the Lightning to get a good look at the net. It also took Vasilevskiy making a nifty save on Nick Suzuki on a breakaway to prevent a short-handed goal for Montreal.
It only delayed the inevitable. Josh Anderson grabbed a puck and turned into the Lightning zone with speed. Jan Rutta did his best to negate the rush, but Anderson was able to throw the puck towards Cole Caufield in front of Vasy. The puck deflected back to Anderson who beat Rutta to the front of the net. The former Blue Jacket slid the puck over Vasilevskiy’s pad and under his arm for the overtime game-winner.
Josh Anderson (Cole Caufield)
The series, and the Stanley Cup, now head to Tampa for Game Five on Wednesday.