ADSF Game 1 recap: Lightning drop opener 5-4 in overtime

The Montreal Canadiens dominated play in most areas but still needed overtime to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-4 in the opening game of the Atlantic Division semifinals.

The Montreal Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-4 in overtime at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Wednesday night.

If was the word of the night tonight. Every fan in attendance probably said it at least once. IF the Lightning could play just a little better. IF they could just generate a little offense. IF every single pass and clearing attempt didn't seem to wind up on a Canadien's stick. All would have been okay. Of course, that's ignoring some pretty big IFs on the other side of the ledger. IF Montreal's normally stellar goalie Carey Price hadn't been so surprisingly average. IF Montreal had buried just one more of the many, many chances they were given. IF they had stopped the Lightning from converting such a high percentage of the few chances they had, the game wouldn't have even been close. IF is a word that tends to get a lot of use in the playoffs but IF the Lightning play this badly again, we're not likely to hear it too many more times.

"We had our chances, they had their chances. I thought our best period was the overtime period. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot time and time again. We did it on the winning goal and on countless other plays." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper

"We came out tentative and didn't want to make mistakes. As the game went on, we got more comfortable but the turnovers at the blue line cost us." - Lightning forward Alex Killorn

Make no mistake, the Lightning played poorly in this game and it's probably charitable to say that they were fortunate to drag it out as long as they did. They were outshot 44-25, with nine of Tampa Bay's shots coming in overtime. Officially, they committed 11 giveaways but were plagued all night long by slow and/or soft and/or scuffed passes and difficulty clearing their own zone or ever setting up in Montreal's. To their credit, Montreal played very well but Tampa Bay helped them out a great deal.

The Lightning scored first at 10:09 of the first with Nikita Kucherov finding the back of the net on assists by J.T. Brown and Cedric Paquette.

That lasted all of 19 seconds as Tomas Plekanec tied it with a wrist shot that beat Anders Lindback at 10:28. He was assisted by Alexei Emelin and Brendan Gallagher.

"He gave up five so people are going to look at him but a couple of those goals, we hung him out to dry a little bit. I don't know what their coach said, but I didn't go into this one thinking it will be a nine-goal game. He made all the saves he had to make. We just can't give a team like this these chances because if you give them enough chances, they will score." - Cooper on the play of Lindback

That tie held through the end of the first period.

Midway through the period, things got chippy on both sides and it started to look like a true NHL playoff game.

At 13:24, the Lightning regained the lead on a great individual effort by Steven Stamkos. He was assisted by Michael Kostka on the play.

This lead lasted a little longer than the first one but was erased at 16:39 when Brian Gionta had a shorthanded breakaway. He was initially turned aside but swatted in his own rebound. Lars Eller and Mike Weaver were credited with assists.

The teams were tied at two after two periods.

The Lightning defense as a unit probably had the roughest night and an especially bad turnover by Kostka gave the Canadiens their first lead at 5:10 of the third, with Eller scoring from Gionta.

The Lightning came back at 7:11, thanks to Alex Killorn with a slapshot that beat Price. Tyler Johnson contributed the helper.

Montreal pulled ahead again at 11:30, this time on a tip-in goal by Thomas Vanek, with David Desharnais and Emelin offering assistance.

The Lightning came back again at the 13:27 mark on a breakaway by Stamkos from Killorn. At this point, the Bolts had scored on four of 14 shots.

The 4-4 tie held until the end of regulation and at that point, it seemed sudden death overtime was the best option the Lightning had from the beginning to pull out the win. Unfortunately, it was the other guys who deployed the dagger, which came at the 18:08 mark on a wrister from Dale Weise with assists from Daniel Briere and Josh Gorges.

Those seeking positives from tonight's effort should look at the fact that the Lightning actually produced two leads as well as two comebacks. They were also perfect on the penalty kill. It's probably not wise to expect Price to look this beatable again, but then, it's not like they didn't have success against him during the regular season.

"We had our chances to win the game and we didn't. Could we have played better? Yeah, of course this wasn't our best game. I've been with this team for 82 games and I know we can play better than that. We handled it well. We had our chances, we just fell one short. It's just one game though. That's the great thing about playoffs." - Cooper

The series resumes with Game 2 on Friday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Game notes:

  • This is the seventh postseason appearance in Lightning history and the sixth time they've opened a series at home.
  • The last (and only) time the two teams met in the postseason was the second round of the 2004 Playoffs, which, as everyone knows, culminated in the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup.
  • Three of the four regular season meetings between the Canadiens and Lightning were decided in extra time.
  • The two teams combined for a total of 13 goals in their regular season meetings.
  • Ondrej Palat skated one shift in the third period and then left the game.
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor as the 42nd Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game. Castor, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to law enforcement based local charities. Under Chief Castor's leadership, Tampa's crime rate has dropped 9.8% in the last year. She has been the driving force behind an unprecedented 69% decrease in crime in the city the past 11 years. Chief Castor believes that reducing crime is only one part of what she can do to improve the community where she was born and raised. The first female Chief of Police in Tampa, Castor is dedicated to molding the city's disadvantaged children into productive adults. Chief Castor's dedication to the Tampa Bay community reaches far beyond her role with the Police Department. The Tampa native is proud to serve on numerous boards and continues work with and mentor at-risk children. She a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters and a board member of Trinity Charter School and at Hillsborough House of Hope. She also recently spearheaded efforts to secure donations to design and build a new Police Athletic League Facility, which opened in 2013.
  • The Lightning Foundation and Jeff Vinik have extended their Community Heroes Program for the 2014 NHL Playoffs. The team will honor a community hero at each Lightning home game during this year's playoffs.