Reeling from two straight losses that cut their lead in the Eastern Conference Second Round from 3-0 to 3-2, the Tampa Bay Lightning responded in Game 6 by dominating the Montreal Canadiens en route to a 4-1 victory to win the best-of-7 series 4-2.
The Lightning's best line, and one of the best in the NHL, provided the spark to the Eastern Conference Final. Two-thirds of "The Triplets," Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, combined for three goals and two assists, including Palat's beauty of a power-play goal that essentially put away the Canadiens.
Shortly after Canadiens forward Devante Smith-Pelly went to the penalty box for holding, Palat passed the puck to Kucherov in the corner and cut to the net, completing a pretty give-and-go by shooting the puck past Canadiens goalie Carey Price for a 3-0 Lightning lead.
"[Kucherov] just found me," Palat told the Tampa Bay Times. "… I was lucky enough to put it through."
After Tyler Johnson scored six goals in the Lightning's first-round win against the Detroit Red Wings, Kucherov dominated the Canadiens with six goals in six games. "The Triplets" have combined for half of Tampa Bay's 34 goals and 14 of its 53 assists in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I've never seen a line with that much chemistry," Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman, who earned the secondary assist on Palat's goal, said according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Kucherov and Johnson each tied Ruslan Fedotenko's franchise record set in the 2004 Eastern Conference Final for the most goals in a playoff series. Behind "The Triplets," the Lightning are in the conference final for the third time in their history (2004, 2011) after they were swept by the Canadiens in the first round last year. They will face the winner of Game 7 on Wednesday between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
"Last year I think we were a young group," Kucherov said. "I think half the team didn't play a playoff game, and this year we are more mature and have more confidence."