Ryan Dadoun

Devante Smith-Pelly, Torrey Mitchell, Jacob De La Rose

Could it happen? Habs edge closer to reverse sweep by forcing Game 6

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After taking a 3-0 series lead, Tampa Bay was crushed by Montreal in Game 4 on Thursday. The Lightning regrouped for Game 5 and held their own, but they still suffered a 2-1 loss to the Canadiens Saturday night.

Montreal held a 1-0 lead for most of the game after Devante Smith-Pelly got the better of Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop at 9:01 of the first period. It certainly helped that Canadiens netminder Carey Price was as dominant as usual, but with a ton of traffic around the goalie, Steven Stamkos was able to capitalize on a juicy rebound to tie the contest.

That had the potential to be the start of a storybook ending for Tampa Bay as Stamkos has struggled to find the back of the net in the 2015 playoffs and didn’t even record a shot in the Lightning’s previous two contests. However, Montreal forward PA Parenteau provided an alternative conclusion:

The Lightning were unable to close the gap the second time around. In a sign of how heated this series has gotten, there was a skirmish after the contest. These squads have now played 10 times since the start of the 2014-15 campaign, so they’re very familiar with each other at this point.

Montreal has to be feeling confident after these two wins against Tampa Bay. The odds are still stacked against the Canadiens, but with Price leading the way, a reverse sweep can’t be ruled out. The key for Tampa Bay now is to avoid getting frustrated. The Lightning have two more chances to eliminate Montreal left and the next one will be in Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

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

Video: Price makes huge save, Stamkos finally breaks through minutes later

Stamkos goal

Montreal took a 1-0 lead over Tampa Bay midway through the first period of Game 5 and for much of the game, the Canadiens clung onto that edge.

Montreal goaltender Carey Price played a big role in allowing that to happen. With nearly half of the third period in the books, Price made a big glove save to rob Valtteri Filppula:

Price merely delayed the game-tying goal though as captain Steven Stamkos was able to capitalize on a juicy rebound at 9:27 of the third to tie the contest:

That was just Stamkos’ second goal of the playoffs and it came after he failed to record a single shot in back-to-back games. He couldn’t have picked a much better time to come through, although Montreal was able to regain the lead late in the frame.

Devils owner Harris preaches against ‘shortcuts’ in rebuild

Josh Harris
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New Jersey Devils co-owner Josh Harris is frustrated about the fact that his team hasn’t advanced to the postseason since he bought them along with David Blitzer in August 2013 and if they miss the playoffs again next season, he would be disappointed. But he wants to take a long-term view of the Devils, even if it means that there might be some short-term pain.

“There are no shortcuts … we’re going to make decisions that allow us to be an elite team and that’s not being one and done in the playoffs,” Harris told the Bergen Record. “Being one and done in the playoffs is not really interesting from my point of view. So, that means being deep in the playoffs and in the hunt for the Stanley Cup and ultimately competing for the Stanley Cup and winning the Stanley Cup. So, putting a time frame on it, if it takes a little time to achieve that, we’re going to make decisions that are consistent with that goal. And I can’t put a time frame on it. I can tell you I want it to be as fast as possible.”

The Devils already have a great goaltender in Cory Schneider and their defense is promising too, but the Achilles’ heel has been their offense. New GM Ray Shero will work to address that, but based on Harris’ comments, he might be unlikely to offer up much in the way of picks or prospects for veteran help.

It’s worth adding that when asked if the Devils would consider offers for the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Harris felt it was important to keep everything on the table. However, given their long-term mandate, the circumstances in which they would move that pick are probably narrow.

Video: Smith-Pelly gives Habs another early lead

Smith-Pelly goal

The Montreal Canadiens were able to build off of an early lead in Game 4 en route to a 6-2 victory. They have a chance to secure a similar outcome tonight.

Devante Smith-Pelly managed to beat Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop midway through the first period to get Montreal on the board first. There was some initial confusion because the Lightning players on the ice thought the puck hit the post and went back out, but the replies made it clear that it was a goal.

You can see that play below:

It was Smith-Pelly’s first marker of the 2015 playoffs. He was acquired from Anaheim in exchange for Jiri Sekac on Feb. 24.

This is just the fourth time in 11 games that Montreal has scored first in the 2015 postseason. The Canadiens are 2-1 in that scenario while Tampa Bay is 2-4 when surrendering the opening goal.

Zuccarello travels with team, making progress

Mats Zuccarello

The New York Rangers are fighting to stay alive in their second round series against the Capitals. Each game has been decided by just one goal so while Washington has a 3-2 series lead, that Capitals’ edge might not exist if Mats Zuccarello was healthy.

Zuccarello hasn’t played in the second round due to a concussion and if New York is going to get past Washington it will likely have to be without his services. The 27-year-old forward did travel with the Rangers to Washington though and while his return isn’t imminent, he is making progress, per the Bergen Record.

“He’s an upbeat person and we’d like him to be on the ice, he can’t be there right now to help us out, hopefully he’ll be there soon,” coach Alain Vigneault said.

In the meantime, Zuccarello is keeping in contact with his teammates and attended Game 5, which has been good for the Rangers’ morale.

“I think it’s great,” Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said. “It creates a little bump here. It’s good to see his face around and he’s always laughing and telling jokes and keeping it light. We’ve seen him a couple of times before that but it’s good to see him out and feeling good and out and about with the team.”