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.
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.
Mike Fisher has completed his two-year, $8.4 million contract and consequently has the option of becoming an unrestricted free agent in a relatively thin market. It might never get that far though as Predators GM David Poile has made his feelings on the matter clear.
“Mike Fisher, we would love to have him back,” Poile told the Tennessean. “He represents so much to our team, both on and off the ice. … He’s a real leader. I truly feel that the best place for Mike is here in Nashville. As long as I’m the manager, he can play as long as he wants.”
It looks like Fisher and Poile might see eye-to-eye as the 34-year-old center is optimistic about the Predators’ future. His agent, Todd Reynolds, also suggested that the Predators and Fisher aren’t far apart when it comes to the terms of his potential extension.
“I love, obviously, this city and being here, part of this group,” Fisher said. “It’s something that will have to be worked out here in the next little bit, but I’m pretty confident that something will get done and that I’ll be back.”
Fisher had 19 goals and 39 points in 59 games in 2014-15. He also won 52.3% of his faceoffs and had a 53.1% Fenwick For in 5-on-5 situations, which is slightly better than what Nashville did when he wasn’t on the ice.
The first three games of the New York Rangers and Capitals’ second round series have been determined by one goal and Washington has won two of those contests. Since the playoffs began, Washington is 5-2 in one-goal games, putting them ahead of every team but the Chicago Blackhawks (5-0) in that regard.
The ability to win close contests can be vital in the playoffs and Washington’s success in this area is in contrast to its playoff runs from 2008-13 when it posted a combined 18-22 record in one-goal games.
“The pressure definitely gains during the games when it’s only one goal. Every mistake or mishap can go in the back of your net. And you obviously don’t want to think that way, but the pressure’s there,” Capitals defenseman Mike Green noted, per the Associated Press.
“But I think we’ve done a good job of handling it, really. You don’t really feel that panic out on the ice or on the bench that maybe in recent years you felt.”
Green thinks there could be a lot of different reasons for that, including maturity and experience, but it could also be the influence of new Capitals coach Barry Trotz. Rangers forward Martin St. Louis has noticed a change in them.
“They play a heavier game, probably, now. They probably get pucks in deep a little more. They’re allowed to sustain offensive zone time. It’s a team that’s good off the rush and heavy down low,” St. Louis said.
Even still, Washington’s edge over the Rangers has been thin thus far. New York has an opportunity to even the series tonight (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).