In a game that featured a few twists and turns, there was one significant stretch that swung this contest into the win column for the Lightning.
Down 1-0 in the closing minutes of the first, the Lightning delivered a dominant shift. In reality, it was more than one shift, because they executed multiple line changes during that time. But it felt like only one shift because the puck never left the Montreal defensive zone. The Lightning repeatedly prevented the Canadiens from clearing, so the Habs were unable to complete a line change of their own. Instead, the Lightning applied consistent pressure, changing players while maintaining possession. Eventually, the line of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point came on the ice and, with the period winding down, Stamkos set up Braydon Coburn for a goal from the slot. That tally tied the game with seven seconds left in the first.
The Lightning carried momentum into the start of the second. The Canadiens iced the puck immediately after the opening faceoff. Point's line came out for the ensuing offensive zone draw, prevented a Montreal clear, and drew a penalty. On the following power play, moments after Artturi Lehkonen hit the post on a shorthanded chance, the Lightning took the lead. The puck went into the right corner of the Montreal defensive zone. The Canadiens' penalty killers flooded that side of the ice in an attempt to gain possession and clear the puck. But instead, the Lightning won the puck and the Montreal players were out of position for what happened next. Kucherov fed Victor Hedman at the point. Hedman slid it across to Stamkos, who had an open look from the left circle. He finished a one-timer past Carey Price.
The Lightning kept up the pressure on the next shift, forcing the Canadiens to play in the Montreal d-zone. When the Habs finally got a clear, they attempted to change their three forwards. But Ryan McDonagh reversed the puck quickly before Montreal could safely complete the change. That led to a three-on-two rush and a goal for Tyler Johnson. The three tallies occurred in a 2:08 span. That stretch was the key turning point in the game.
The Canadiens made a push in the second half of the game. The Lightning helped fuel their attack with penalties. During the final 31 minutes, the Lightning took four separate penalties leading to Montreal power plays. The Habs gained momentum from those PP chances. Consequently, they owned most of the puck possession during the final period and a half. The Habs were especially crisp during the third period attacking off the rush, as they effectively entered the Lightning's defensive zone with speed. But Andrei Vasilevskiy didn't allow another goal and the Lightning, despite ceding momentum with the penalties, did kill off all four of the infractions. Those successful kills came after they had yielded a first period goal to Jeff Petry on Montreal's initial power play chance.
So it may not have been pretty in the final 31 minutes - and the volume of penalties continues to be an issue - but the Lightning managed to get this one across the finish line.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1. Steven Stamkos - Lightning. GWG and assist.
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 33 saves.
3. Erik Cernak - Lightning.