Heading into Game Two, the Lightning knew that the Canadiens would come out of the gates flying. The Habs didn’t want to drop the first two games of this series at home. Sure enough, Montreal dominated play for much of the first period. But the Lightning were able to overcome that early Montreal surge and win the game anyway. There were two main reasons why: first, goaltender Ben Bishop was outstanding when the Lightning were under siege early and second, the power play erupted for four goals. The four power play goals tied the franchise record for most PPG in a playoff game.
Those early minutes, though, were ugly, at least from the Lightning’s perspective. They repeatedly lost faceoffs (many of which were in the defensive zone), which led to lots of puck possession for the Habs in the offensive zone. When the Lightning retrieved the puck, they struggled to execute clears, so the Canadiens had second and third opportunities to make plays in the Lightning end. After one such d-zone turnover by the Lightning, the Habs converted. Brandon Prust forced a steal in the corner and Torrey Mitchell dropped a pass to Jeff Petry at the right point. Petry snapped a quick shot past a screened Ben Bishop and it was 1-0 Canadiens at the 7:20 mark of the first.
Then came some of the most significant saves Bishop made. First, he denied Brian Flynn on an in-alone chance after Flynn jumped on a loose puck in the slot. Later, during a Lightning four-minute power play, Bishop made two key shorthanded saves on Tomas Plekanec and Flynn. A third shorthanded save came in the closing minutes of the frame when he stopped Mitchell from point-blank range. In all, Bishop made 13 saves on 14 shots in the first period and held Montreal to just the one goal.
And the Habs didn’t get out of the first period with the lead. The first Lightning power play goal came with 24 seconds left in the period on an unexpected play – a Valtteri Filppula one-timer from the right circle. Filppula often passes rather than shoots (he himself admits this), but on this play, he ripped a quick shot over Carey Price’s left shoulder. That goal was significant because it got the Lightning to the locker room with the score tied (after a period in which they were outplayed) and it provided a confidence boost to the power play. A boost that would pay big dividends later on.
But before the Lightning took the lead, they had to kill two penalties of their own early in the second. They got through those kills and kept the score tied at one. Then, about a minute and a half after that second kill, Steven Stamkos took a seam pass from Jason Garrison, split the Montreal defense and skated in on a breakaway. He deked to his forehand and slid the puck past Price to give the Bolts their first lead of the game. Before the period ended, the power play struck for two more goals. Montreal defenseman Tom Gilbert took a cross checking penalty during a four-on-four, which gave the Lightning a four-on-three. A tic-tac-toe passing play from Stamkos to Tyler Johnson to Nikita Kucherov resulted in an open net look for Kucherov. Kucherov one-timed his shot into the net to make it 3-1. Then, as they did in the first, the Lightning scored another power play goal in the closing seconds of the second. Alex Killorn, from the side of the net, passed the puck through the low slot to a pinching Victor Hedman. The Habs lost coverage on Hedman, who slapped the puck into an open side of the net. That goal came with 14 seconds remaining in the period and gave the Bolts a 4-1 lead after two.
The Habs pushed early in the third and generated a couple of dangerous chances, but Bishop made those saves. After one of those chances, Mitchell plowed into Bishop and was called for goalie interference. The Lightning struck again on the power play with another splendid passing play. From the right circle, Johnson wired a pass to the slot, where Kucherov redirected the puck over Price’s stick into the net. Though the Habs eventually cut the lead to 5-2, they took another penalty on the ensuring faceoff, which effectively killed any momentum they might have gained from the goal. J.T. Brown finished the scoring with a deflection goal at 3:55.
The Lightning power play had gone 2-34 in their first eight playoff games – and those two goals had come in the same game. Even though they’d had some decent power play opportunities in the past couple of games, they hadn’t converted. But as Associate Coach Rick Bowness told us on Lightning Radio during our second intermission interview, the Filppula power play goal infused the team with confidence. That confidence helped the power play execute the high-skill passing plays that resulted in the next three goals. Hopefully, that power play confidence will carry over into Game Three.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Bishop’s first period saves on Flynn and Mitchell when the score was 1-0 Montreal.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Ben Bishop – Lightning. 27 saves.
2.Nikita Kucherov – Lightning. Two PPG goals.
3.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. Goal and two assists.