<span class="vcard">Ryan Dadoun</span>

David Desharnais

Not today: Montreal crushes Lightning to force Game 5

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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.

For a playoff overview and all tonight’s biggest stories, click here.

Mark Giordano inches closer to return

Mark Giordano
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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.

Canadiens chase Lightning’s Bishop out of Game 4

David Desharnais goal
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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.

Video: With backs to wall, Habs jump to early 2-0 lead

Pacioretty goal

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.

Lightning’s Paquette (undisclosed) back, Morrow out

Tampa Bay had a lot to be happy about after its 6-2 victory over Montreal in Game 2 on Sunday, but the one blemish was the loss of forward Cedric Paquette. He sustained an undisclosed injury during that contest and couldn’t participate in Game 3 as a result.

Promising rookie Jonathan Drouin was inserted into the lineup as a result, but was held to just 9:54 minutes of playing time and was on the ice for Montreal’s lone goal in the Lightning’s 2-1 victory.

Paquette is ready to return for Game 4 tonight, but rather than push Drouin out again, veteran Brenden Morrow will sit instead. Drouin will play on the fourth line with Brian Boyle and fellow rookie Vladislav Namestnikov. Meanwhile, Paquette is projected to skate alongside Valtteri Filppula and J.T. Brown.

In nine playoff contests, Paquette has scored a goal and averaged 13:08 minutes of ice time.