You’ve got to hand it to the Montreal Canadiens. Facing elimination after absorbing a crushing last-second defeat on Wednesday, they came up with a terrific performance to extend the series. As they did for much of Game Three, the Habs were quick to loose pucks, won most of the puck battles, enjoyed the majority of the puck possession and badly outshot the Lightning. Unlike Game Three, a contest in which they only managed one goal, the Habs erupted for six.
And from the Lightning’s perspective? Simply put, this was a clunker. They had a somewhat similar performance in Game Three, but got away with it. They didn’t get away with it a second time. Games Three and Four weren’t identical, though. In Game Three, despite not having the puck for most of the final 40 minutes, the Lightning defended reasonably well and limited the number of dangerous Montreal scoring chances. In Game Four, however, the Lightning surrendered a substantial number of chances. The Habs had breakaways, two-on-ones and other in-alone chances. It’s true that the Lightning had to chase a deficit – and such counter chances can occur when one team is pressing, but that’s not the whole story. The Lightning’s coverage just wasn’t good, especially not against a motivated opponent playing for its survival.
There were other Lightning problems. Their passing was off. They were slow to move pucks out of their own zone. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, they lost plenty of puck battles. Their game wasn’t crisp – and they paid the price for it.
Typically this year, when the Lightning have endured a bad game and lost, they’ve rebounded well in the next contest. I understand that the Bolts weren’t happy with their Game Three performance, but a win in a poorly-played game may not have the same effect as a loss in such a game. First and foremost, the Lightning will need to raise their urgency level in Game Five. They must find a way to match the level of the Canadiens, who again will be looking to stave off elimination. A more urgent performance should yield a crisper overall game. That should help the areas of concern listed above: passing, coverage, winning battles, etc. I still believe that the Habs haven’t seen the Lightning’s best in this series (though Tampa Bay was much better in the first two games than in the last two). Let’s see if the Lightning can deliver their best in Game Five.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Max Pacioretty’s first period shorthanded goal, giving Montreal a 2-0 lead.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Max Pacioretty – Canadiens. SHG and two assists.
2.Tomas Plekanec – Canadiens. Assist. Won 70% of faceoffs.
3.Andrei Markov – Canadiens. Goal.