The Montreal Canadiens needed a win on Saturday to give themselves a chance for home-ice advantage in their upcoming first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. They got that win thanks to a dramatic tally that demands a lengthy explanation: Brian Gionta’s shutout-spoiling, overtime game-winning penalty-shot goal:
With that, Montreal has a one-point standings lead over Tampa Bay. That makes the situation simple:
- If the Lightning win against the Washington Capitals on Sunday, they get home-ice advantage (and the second spot in the Atlantic).
- If Tampa Bay loses to the Caps, those designations go to Montreal.
To add a little context to home-ice advantage, consider a few factors:
- Tampa Bay beat the Habs in Montreal (2-1 SO) on Nov. 12; lost to Montreal in Tampa Bay (2-1 SO) on Dec. 28; beat Habs at Montreal 2-1 in OT on Feb. 1; beat Montreal at home 3-1 on April 1. Long story short, the Lightning won the season series, but all but one of those games went beyond regulation and two went to shootouts.
- As of this writing, Montreal is 23-13-5 at home and 23-15-3 on the road.
- Meanwhile, the Lightning are 25-10-6 at home and 20-17-3 away.
Everything about these numbers screams “impending close series” but that remains to be seen. We also get a little drama on the last day of the season (Sunday), which is nice since all three of the East’s other series are determined (including seeding).