Montreal Canadiens

Stamkos, power play comes alive as Lightning take 2-0 series lead vs. Habs

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The Tampa Bay Lightning advanced to the second round and entered tonight’s contest with a 1-0 series lead against the Montreal Canadiens, but there were two glaring issues with their play in the postseason. The first was that superstar forward Steven Stamkos didn’t have a goal in eight playoff contests and the other was the fact that Tampa Bay had capitalized on just two of its 34 power-play opportunities thus far.

Both of those issues were addressed tonight as the Lightning earned a 6-2 victory over the Canadiens.

Defenseman Jeff Petry got Montreal on the board first, but the Canadiens soon began to run into penalty troubles. Earlier in Tampa Bay’s playoff run, that might not have proven to be a big issue for Montreal and at first they were able to hold off the Lightning this time around. However, Valtteri Filppula netted a power-play marker with roughly 24 seconds left in the first period to tie the contest at 1-1. When Stamkos gave Tampa Bay the lead midway through the second frame, the floodgates opened.

Nikita Kucherov scored two goals for the Lightning, including what proved to be the game-winner:

In the end, Tampa Bay was 4-for-8 with the man advantage.

Montreal has now fallen behind 2-0 despite entering the series with the home ice advantage. Game 3 will take place on Wednesday in the Lightning’s Amalie Arena. Given that the Lightning were 32-8-1 at home in the regular season, the Canadiens’ situation is looking rather dire.

Video: Stamkos ends goal drought in style

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Steven Stamkos didn’t score a single goal in Tampa Bay’s first eight playoff contests this season. The fact that the Lightning made it to the second round and then took Game 1 against Montreal without a single marker from the two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner is impressive.

It also raises the question: How far can Tampa Bay go if Stamkos gets hot?

We might find out the answer because Stamkos not only ended his goal scoring drought midway through the second period of Sunday’s game, but he did so in style. After accepting a long pass from Jason Garrison and beating Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov for the puck, Stamkos found himself in a one-on-one situation with goaltender Carey Price.

Stamkos didn’t have complete control of the rolling puck as he moved towards the net, but he still managed to outmaneuver Price to put Tampa Bay up 2-1:

Video: Habs’ penalty trouble costs them early lead

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Down 1-0 in their second round series, the Montreal Canadiens got off to a strong start in tonight’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Acquired from the Edmonton Oilers, defenseman Jeff Petry fired a shot through traffic that beat goaltender Ben Bishop just 7:20 minutes into the contest.

It was his first career playoff goal and also marked just the second time that Montreal has scored first in a 2015 playoff game. However, the Canadiens could not hold the lead.

While Montreal was fine defensively in the first period and Carey Price has been playing like Carey Price, Montreal accumulated six penalty minutes in the final 7:15 minutes of play in the opening frame. The Canadiens were still able to hold Tampa Bay back for the most part, but eventually Valtteri Filppula was able to sneak one by Price.

Tampa Bay is now 3-for-37 with the man advantage.

Canadiens forced to adjust as Desharnais has the flu

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.

Galchenyuk is under the microscope in Montreal

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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.