After missing two chances to eliminate the Montreal Canadiens, the Tampa Bay Lightning face a much different challenge as they head home for Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinal.
A week ago the Lightning were looking for a series sweep. Now they're trying to avoid a return to Montreal for Game 7.
Along the way their winning streak against Montreal ended at eight, their lead in the series was cut down to 3-2 and Carey Price found a groove.
The Canadiens goaltender stopped 46 of 49 shots in elimination Games 4 and 5 for a .938 save percentage after being sub-.900 in his first eight matchups against Tampa Bay this season.
"We've had success against Carey Price," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said on a conference call Sunday. "So he, to us, is not the mental block just because we've played them so many times in the last couple years and we look back and his numbers against the Tampa Bay Lightning are very pedestrian compared to the rest of the teams."
Price was very good again at Bell Centre on Saturday night but hasn't yet stolen a game in this series the way he did to close out the Ottawa Senators in Game 6 of the first round. The Vezina and Hart Trophy finalist stopped all 43 shots he faced to make sure the Habs and Senators didn't get to a Game 7.
Now Price's job is to help get Montreal back for Game 7 and Ben Bishop's to get the Lightning into the Eastern Conference final. Bishop allowed three goals on 14 shots in Game 4 but other than that has been just as good as Price for the majority of the series.
Tampa Bay veteran Brenden Morrow said the onus is on him and his teammates to turn up the heat on Price.
"The Canadiens, they're doing a great job of putting pressure on Bish and making life miserable for him, and we need to do the same for Carey," Morrow said. "He's made some big saves, timely saves, for that team. I think we've been guilty of making it a little bit too easy for him, as well."
This looked like it would be an easy series for the Lightning when they won the first two games in Montreal and then took a three games to none lead. Cooper and players pointed to turnovers as the biggest culprit for loosening their stranglehold on the series.
But they also wouldn't trade places with the Habs.
"We're up 3-2, and I'd rather take that than being down 3-2, going into our building," defenceman Victor Hedman said. "It really doesn't matter how you get there. I think it's a new game come Tuesday. I'm excited the position that we're in."
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