Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game One

Weise gives Canadiens 1-0 series lead with overtime win


The Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning gave hockey fans plenty of what was expected (great work from Thomas Vanek and Steven Stamkos), yet the game was just as much about the unexpected. If the frequently wide-open pace wasn’t surprising enough, Dale Weise broke the star-scoring narrative by notching the 5-4 overtime game-winner to give Montreal a 1-0 series lead.

Let’s take a look back at how the contest came down to Weise’s surprising game-winner.

Score-wise, the game was a seesaw affair as the two teams traded leads throughout. Tampa Bay opened the scoring midway through the opening frame on a Nikita Kucherov marker, but Montreal replied just 19 seconds later when Tomas Plekanec walked Radko Gudas and snapped the puck past Anders Lindback.

In the second period, a similar narrative unfolded — Steve Stamkos gave the Bolts a 2-1 lead at the 13:24 mark, only for Montreal to respond with the equalizer minutes later on Brian Gionta’s shorthanded tally.

In the third, guess what? More lead changes. This time it was Montreal blowing a pair of one-goal advantages, though, as Lars Eller’s early marker was canceled out by Alex Killorn’s first-ever playoff goal; minutes later, Thomas Vanek’s go-ahead 4-3 goal was equaled when Stamkos scored his second of the game with six and a half minutes remaining.

The Bolts hung with the Habs despite being largely outplayed and badly outshot (35-16) during regulation. Lindback, forced into the starter’s role late in the regular season after Ben Bishop went down to an upper-body injury, was solid in the face of heavy action, finishing with 39 saves on 44 shots.

Carey Price was billed as the sure thing in this goalie matchup, yet he had the rougher night in regulation, at least statistically speaking. Chances are, he’ll gladly take a weak outing on paper (he made 21 out of 25 saves) if it means getting a key win.

The two teams get back at it on Friday with the Lightning facing the prospect of heading to Montreal down 0-2. This team has shown remarkable resiliency this season, but Tampa Bay might dig too deep a hole if they can’t bounce back in Game 2.

One bonus note: after all this time, Daniel Briere still seems to have a knack for scoring in the playoffs:

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado

Detroit waives Cleary

Daniel Cleary

Dan Cleary‘s time as a Red Wing could soon be over.

Detroit placed the veteran forward on waivers Wednesday afternoon, per TSN. The move comes after Cleary signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $950,000 just weeks before training camp, then proceeded to play in four of Detroit’s exhibition contests, scoring two points.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens now.

At 36, Cleary doesn’t have much left in the tank and is coming off a year in which he played just 17 games. But as we noted back in the summer, this seems to all be part of a larger plan.

From the Free Press:

A situation that bears the handprint of former coach Mike Babcock has put the Wings in the position of being honor-bound to keep Cleary, 36, aboard, even as he is coming off a season that saw him play just 17 games, producing two points.

This debacle began two years ago. The Wings had offered Cleary a three-year, $6.25-million contract before he became unrestricted July 1. He declined. The Wings then signed Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson, leaving little space under the salary cap. Then Cleary didn’t sign with anyone. September rolled around. The Flyers offered Cleary a three-year deal for $8.25 million, but Cleary then decided he wanted to stay in Detroit.

He ended up flying to Traverse City, where the Wings already had begun training camp. He met in a hangar with Holland and Babcock. Holland pointed to a near maxed-out budget. Babcock pushed hard for Cleary to be signed. What resulted was a one-year, $1.75-million deal with the understanding the Wings would take into consideration what Cleary left on the Flyers table.

After playing out that $1.75 million deal, Cleary re-signed in Detroit last summer to a one-year, $1.5 million pact — so, essentially, the Wings are now in final year of an unspoken three-year agreement that’s (sorta) aimed at repaying what got left on the table in Philly.

Got all that?

If Cleary gets through waivers, the Wings could send him to AHL Grand Rapids. Since he signed a one-way deal, he’d get his money regardless.

There’s also the option of Babcock and the Leafs claiming Cleary off waivers — a scenario that, as unlikely as it sounds, has already made the rounds on social media.