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Game 4 Preview: MTL vs. TBL

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
Eastern Conference First Round Series : Game 4

Canadiens (3-0) vs. Lightning (0-3)

Energized by a close win in front of the home crowd, the Habs will look to complete the series sweep on Tuesday at the Bell Centre

A surprise offensive catalyst this postseason, Rene Bourque continued on his recent hot streak by corralling a P.K. Subban dump-in, breaking in alone, and snapping the puck under Anders Lindback’s armpit with just eleven seconds elapsed in the first period. Bourque, showing great aggression with and without the puck, led all players with eight shots on net during Sunday’s game.

The early goal set the tone, as the Canadiens never trailed in the game despite seeing Tampa Bay mount a serious challenge. Ondrej Palat scored on the powerplay midway through the second period after sitting out Game 2 due to injury. Late in the frame, P.K. Subban made a great individual effort to break through the Tampa defense, then slipped the puck over to an uncovered Brendan Gallagher. The winger went bar-down with a quick wrist shot to restore the Montreal lead.

Tomas Plekanec scored the eventual game-winner early in the third period, faking a shot and then beating a screened Lindback. Matt Carle made it close by converting on a point shot with nine minutes left in the game, but Montreal was able to weather the storm and came out with a 3-2 regulation win.

Early in the game, Brendan Gallagher was left bloodied after being boarded by a Tampa defender, but returned to the game in time to score his side’s second goal. Steven Stamkos was shaken up after colliding with Alexei Emelin in the second period, but also finished the game.

There is no doubt that Carey Price will have to be at the top of his game if the Canadiens are to complete the series sweep in Game 4. After posting a 0.840 save percentage in Game 1, Price has found his rhythm, putting up 0.963 and 0.931 performances in the next two outings. Considering that he has strung together three-game streaks of 0.900 goaltending or better on seven occasions in the 2013-14 regular season alone, chances are good that Price can backstop his team to its first series win since 2010.

Though Rene Bourque has been the toast of the town thanks to his offensive outbursts, the Max Pacioretty-David Desharnais-Thomas Vanek line is still the core of the team’s attack. Outshooting their opponents handily whenever they are on the ice together (29 shots on net through three games), the trio has benefited from favourable usage, starting more shifts in the Lightning zone (50.0%) than any other teammates.

Tomas Plekanec, for his part, has done a masterful job at shutting down Tampa’s best. Despite starting only 15.3% of his shifts in the offensive zone, Plekanec has managed to post a positive shot differential in addition to notching Game 3’s winning goal with a laser off the far post.

Puck drop will be at 7:00PM E.S.T.
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