Another game against the Montreal Canadiens. Another impressive win for the Lightning. In sweeping the Habs in the five-game season series, the Lightning not only clinched a playoff berth, they also set a franchise record with their 47th win of the season. As they did in many of the games against Montreal this year, the Lightning completely dominated play for long stretches. Just as impressively, the Lightning were able to navigate through two big Montreal momentum surges in the third period.
In the opening period, the Lightning benefitted from three power play chances. Even though they didn’t score on them, they applied heavy pressure. The Bolts fired eight shots on Carey Price during those three man advantages and carried momentum from those chances through most of the rest of the period. The Habs enjoyed a late first period PP chance and fired four shots of their own on Ben Bishop, but didn’t score. So the first period ended in a scoreless tie.
Overall, it was a good first period for the Lightning. But their second period was outstanding. They fired 18 more shots on Price, generated numerous scoring chances, possessed the puck for the majority of the frame and scored three goals. Early in the period, following a Montreal dump-in, Bishop fired a long pass down ice and caught the Canadiens in a line change. Steven Stamkos accepted the pass and wired the puck to Vladdy Namestnikov, who skated in alone on Price. He tucked the puck past Price’s stick for a 1-0 Lightning lead. The Bolts had a chance to add to their advantage when Dale Weise was given a double minor. The first half of the power play wasn’t especially crisp, though, and eventually, the Lightning surrendered a two-on-one shorthanded rush to Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty. Pacioretty snapped a one-timer over Bishop’s stick to tie the game. But 33 seconds later, Jonathan Drouin took a long outlet from Anton Stralman and split the Montreal defense. He finished his breakaway by deking Price and roofing a forehand. That goal quelled any potential momentum the Habs might have gotten from the shorthanded goal and the Bolts carried play through the rest of the period. Late in the frame, Ondrej Palat stole the puck just inside the Montreal blue line and set up Namestnikov in the slot. Vladdy moved the puck to Nikita Kucherov at the right circle, who one-timed his shot past Price. It was 3-1 after two. In the period, the Lightning held the Habs to only six shots – and just two shots during five-on-five play.
The Canadiens pushed back to start the third and in the opening minute, they scored a goal off a Lars Eller offensive zone faceoff win and a point shot from Jeff Petry. For the next several minutes, the Canadiens controlled play (though Price had to made a point blank save on Alex Killorn shortly after the Petry goal). Montreal was committed to finishing checks and, for the first time in the game, was winning 50/50 pucks. But when Palat skated into the Montreal zone with the puck, the Habs, in their eagerness to finish a check, lost coverage. Palat took the hard check and slid the puck to Namestnikov, who suddenly had a two-on-one with Kucherov. From the left circle, Namestnkov finished his shot to reestablish the two-goal lead at 6:21. That goal quieted the crowd – and the Canadiens – for much of the next eight minutes. But after a Lightning penalty with 5:28 left, the Habs went on the power play. P.K. Subban ripped a right point shot past Bishop with 3:50 remaining to pull Montreal back to within a goal. As they had done at the start of the period, the Canadiens applied heavy pressure. But Bishop made some key stops and then, with under a minute to go, Stralman shot the puck from his own zone into the empty Montreal net. That iced the victory.
As I wrote in the opening paragraph, the Lightning controlled play for most of the game. They put 44 shots on net. With the exception of a couple of segments when the Habs built momentum, the Lightning swarmed their opponent, not allowing Montreal to generate any speed up ice. They did it a makeshift lineup, following the injuries to Garrison, Sustr and Johnson on Saturday. And as he did on Saturday (and has done throughout the year when needed), Brian Boyle stepped back on defense after Victor Hedman left the game in the third period with an apparent injury. It was a total team effort and a total team win. Appropriate for a game that punched their postseason ticket.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Namestnikov’s second goal, giving the Lightning a 4-2 lead in the third.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Vladdy Namestnikov – Two goals and one assist. Career bests for goals and points in a game.
2.Ondrej Palat – Lightning. Two assists. Ties point total from last year with 59.
3.Jonathan Drouin – Lightning. Key PPG.