This could be the last night of Minnesota and Montreal’s playoff runs as the Blackhawks and Lightning have a 3-0 series lead in their respective series. The Wild went into the second round hoping that this would finally be the year they got past Chicago after failed attempts in 2013 and 2014. Montreal meanwhile had high aspirations thanks in large part to goaltender Carey Price’s efforts.
Both squads still have a chance to reverse their fortunes, but the odds are now stacked heavily against them.
Montreal will be the first to fight for its survival as Game 4 vs. Tampa Bay is scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can also stream it via NBC Sports Live Extra and tune in as early as 6:00 for pregame coverage:
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Chicago’s Game 4 contest against Minnesota will start at 9:30 p.m. ET. It will also air on NBCSN, but the Wild-Hawks contest still has its own livestream URL:
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Including the regular season, Montreal went into Thursday’s game against Tampa Bay without a single win in eight meetings. Another loss tonight would have ended the Canadiens’ playoff run, but instead they scored early and often in a 6-2 victory.
Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov set the tone of the game just 2:44 minutes in when he beat Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop. That put the game on a path that led to Bishop being pulled early in the second frame after allowing a soft goal from David Desharnais.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made his first career playoff appearance as a result, but it didn’t work out for him as Jeff Petry and Brendan Gallagher found the back of the net just 15 seconds apart to turn this contest into a blowout.
Tampa Bay was able to capitalize on a couple power-play opportunities after that, but Montreal didn’t let up in the third period so it’s hard for the Lightning to take many positives out of this one. Although they won Game 3, the Lightning were looking for a better performance tonight and didn’t get it.
Really the only silver lining for the Lightning is that they’re in a position to shake off this loss. They had a 3-0 series lead and thus still have three more chances to eliminate Montreal. Even still, it would be very dangerous to let the Canadiens get back into this series. With stars like goaltender Carey Price and defenseman P.K. Subban on their side, the Canadiens have the talent to make some history.
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When Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano suffered torn biceps that required surgery, there was speculation that the Calgary Flames might collapse. After all he wasn’t just their leader, he was arguably a strong Norris Trophy contender before he got hurt.
The Flames showed resilience by not only making the playoffs, but also getting to the second round. However, they now find themselves down 2-1 in their series against the Anaheim Ducks. Getting Giordano back now would be a big boost. He’s not ready yet, but he is making some progress.
The 31-year-old defenseman participated in a lengthy practice on Thursday that included some contact. He took it as a positive and is upbeat about his progress overall. At the same time, he needs to continue strengthening the area, gradually shoot harder, and continue to take progressively more contact.
“It’s still pretty early with this type of injury so we got to be smart about it,” Giordano cautioned, per the Flames’ website. “It seems like every day is getting better and better so it’s been all positive.
“At the end of the day you’ve got to leave it up to the number one guy to take advice from is our surgeon — who has seen a lot of these before — and go from there.”
In the meantime, the best thing the Flames can do for Giordano is continue to extend their run so that the odds of him returning increase. Calgary will play in Game 4 on Friday.
Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop turned aside 30 of 31 shots to lead the Lightning to a 2-1 victory on Wednesday, but tonight’s game has been a very different story.
Montreal was able to take a 2-0 lead in the first period and it gained even more breathing room in the second courtesy of a shot by David Desharnais that Bishop should have stopped:
With that, Bishop was yanked just 25:08 minutes into the game after stopping 11 of 14 shots. Andrei Vasilevskiy, 20, made his playoff debut as a result. He hasn’t fared any better as he allowed two quick goals against Montreal.
Going into this game, Bishop had a commanding 1.65 GAA and .937 save percentage in 10 playoff contests, but fatigue might have been a factor as he was being asked to start in his second contest in as many nights.
Down 3-0 in its series to Tampa Bay, Montreal needs a win tonight just to keep going. The Canadiens couldn’t have asked for a much better start.
Max Pacioretty did a great job of feeding the puck to defenseman P.K. Subban in the Lightning zone just a couple minutes into the game. However, with the Tampa Bay players flooding the center of the ice in anticipation of a shot from Subban, he instead moved the puck to Andrei Markov, who had a clean shot at goaltender Ben Bishop:
Pacioretty made it 2-0 with a shorthanded goal just 8:43 minutes into the game after picking up teammate Torrey Mitchell’s successful clear:
That was Montreal’s second shorthanded marker of the 2015 playoffs. The Canadiens have scored once with the man advantage.