The Lightning emphatically dismissed both of those concerns in a flurry to take a two-games-to-none lead in their Second Round series against the Canadiens.
The power play, which was 2-for-34 previously in the playoffs, tallied four times on Sunday, a series worth of power-play goals scored in a little more than 27 minutes.
And Stamkos got on the score sheet in the most fitting way possible, a breakaway replete with a series of maneuvers that shook the Habs’ Carey Price out of his skates and left the goalie trying to save invisible pucks.
Tampa Bay returns to Amalie Arena for Games 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. But before heading home, let’s wrap up Sunday’s scintillating performance.
Late in the game with the outcome having been decided for some time, Montreal’s Brandon Prust cheaply clipped the leg of Lightning goalie Ben Bishop behind the Bolts’ goal, sparking a fight with Braydon Coburn.
Following the scuffle and on his way to the bench, Prust chucked an elbow pad toward the Lightning bench, which Stamkos caught out of the air.
“That’s a first. I thought I made a pretty good catch too,” Stamkos said, grinning. “Definitely didn’t expect that coming. He’s a fiery guy, he’s a competitor and for the most part he plays within the lines. That’s twice he’s run our goalie now.”
Stamkos took the discarded protective piece and tossed it over the glass and into the crowd behind the Bolts bench for a waiting fan.
“I’m not sure if he got to keep it or not, but they were pretty excited about getting a game-used elbow pad,” Stamkos said. “I don’t know why.”
Prust may want to keep his head on a swivel during Game 3.
“Not the first time he’s done something like that,” Stamkos said. “Again, for us, we’re staying focused. We’re not worrying about that. (Coburn) took care of it. He’s an unbelievable team guy, and, again, that just shows frustration. If we’re the ones that are coming out on top at this time of year, sometimes you have to take some sticks and punches, take little bumps like that. Obviously, we don’t want that. So we may look at that and address it the way we feel we need to.”
2. FIL-ING THE NET
Despite the lopsided final score, Montreal outplayed the Lightning for much of the first period. The Canadiens took a 1-0 lead 7:20 into the game when Jeff Petry sent an innocent-looking wrist shot on frame from the blue line that Bishop never saw until it was past him and in the net.
The Habs had chances to put the Lightning in an even deeper hole later in the first but couldn’t capitalize. Then, with just 24 seconds left in the period, Bolts center Valtteri Filppula gave his team the shot of adrenaline it needed, leveling the score 1-1 and breaking the Bolts power-play curse with one swing of his stick from just inside the right circle.
No doubt, the Canadiens felt a tie game after 20 minutes was an undeserved result, and the demoralized Habs emerged from the locker room for the second period, where they were completely overwhelmed.
“There was no goal bigger than Filppula’s,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “They were carrying the play clearly in the first period, and for them to walk into their dressing room and really have nothing to show for it, I thought that was kind of a momentum swinger for us.
“I thought we took the game over after that.”
3. BOLTS ARE IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT
Prust’s actions at the end of Sunday’s game underscored the bitterness the entire Canadiens team felt after losing the first two games of the series at home.
The Habs came unhinged in Game 2, taking numerous penalties throughout, finally boiling over when Prust ran Bishop and earned two 10-minute game misconduct penalties, a five-minute fighting major and a two-minute minor for tripping Bishop – 27 penalty minutes in all -- with 1:53 to go in the game.
The Lightning bludgeoned Montreal in Game 2 to take control of the Second Round series. By the end of the game, the Canadiens could sense their season slipping away and let their anger get the better of them.
“That just shows frustration,” Stamkos said. “Obviously it’s a good thing for us.”
Tampa Bay improved to 4-1 on the road in the 2015 playoffs. The Lightning can end the series in a quick four games by taking care of business at Amalie Arena, a place where they recorded a NHL-best 32-8-1 record during the regular season.
“Anytime you can come into an opposing team’s building and win two games, that’s what you want to do,” Stamkos said. “Usually you try to get one, and you’re satisfied with that. This group has a little different feel to it this year. We wanted this game.”
By no means are the Lightning counting on rolling through Games 3 and 4, though.
“Obviously, we’re pleased with the 2-0, but we know in this room there’s been guys that have had 2-0 leads before [and lost] and guys that have been down two that have won,” Stamkos said. “We realize this is far from over.”