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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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.
Heading into their second-round series, many thought that the difference between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning may come down to who’s in net. So far, it’s been Ben Bishop making the big saves instead of Carey Price.
The desperate Habs have been carrying the play for much of this game (as of this writing, Tampa Bay lacks a second-period shot), yet Bishop keeps turning Montreal aside. As you can see from this stop, sometimes he’s also getting a little luck:
Bishop also stopped Dale Weise by a narrow margin:
So far, the Lightning hold a 1-0 lead against the Canadiens, but you have to wonder how many times Bishop can save the day.
The Montreal Canadiens are hoping to even their series with the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 tonight, but they will have to do so without the services of David Desharnais. The 28-year-old forward is battling the flu and is consequently not playing.
Desharnais had 14 goals and 48 points in 82 games in the regular season. He’s recorded two assists in seven playoff contests. This is the first time he’s missed a Canadiens game since the start of the campaign.
Brian Flynn has drawn into the lineup as a result and is centering a line that includes Alex Galchenyuk and Dale Weise.
Montreal surrendered a sixth round pick to acquire Flynn from the Buffalo Sabres on March 2. The 26-year-old had five goals and 17 points in 63 contests in the regular season. He has another goal and three points in five postseason games.
The Montreal Canadiens only managed one goal in plenty of playing time in Game 1 (a double-overtime 2-1 defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning), shining a light on their scoring issues. It seems as though Alex Galchenyuk is one of the players sweating the most under that spotlight.
Galchenyuk, 21, only has two points in the postseason and has failed to score in five straight contests. Worst yet, he had a rough Game 1, taking three minor penalties before eventually getting demoted.
Like many other Canadiens – Habs Eyes on the Prize points out that their 2.69 shooting percentage in the playoffs is absurdly low – Galchenyuk said he merely hopes to get more bounces, as the Canadiens’ website reports.
“I know I need to go out there and try to help the team win as much as I can, but bounces don’t go your way sometimes. It’s a team sport. We’re all battling. These are really close games. We’ve all got to bring our game to the next level. That’s what I’m trying to do,” Galchenyuk said. “When you don’t get the bounces for a couple of games, you know they’ll eventually come when you keep working. That’s where my head is right now.”
Head coach Michel Therrien seems convinced that the Canadiens are close to breaking through, according to NHL.com.
“There’s a question of hockey karma also,” Therrien said. “You need breaks. We hit two posts, so we’re talking about an inch. If it’s one inch towards the inside, our offense is outstanding. It’s perception. But we don’t live in perception, we live in reality. We created good scoring chances, and if we keep working with the same determination we’ll get back on track.”
For better or worse, many eyes will be on Galchenyuk tonight and through the rest of the playoffs. That’s just the nature of playing in a pressure-cooker atmosphere such as Montreal.