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:
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.
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.
The thought has been that Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos was “due” and that maybe a change in opponent in the Montreal Canadiens would finally light his fire.
That didn’t happen in Game 1 of the second round, however, as he failed to generate a point in a 2-1 double-overtime win for the Bolts.
Many focus on Stamkos’ zero goals so far in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, and for a while, that might not have been a fair narrative (people all too often ignore assists, for one thing). His lack of production is more glaring as time goes on, however; Stamkos only has one assist in the past six playoff games. He’s gone two straight contests without a point.
There are bright sides – he’s still shooting, his team is generally winning and he hasn’t been on the ice for a ton of goals allowed – yet the Habs are at the point where they’re quietly noticing his lack of points. Devante Smith-Pelly told NHL.com that he didn’t want to “jinx” their success.
“You look at the stat sheet and you see Stamkos didn’t have a goal, but at the same time that’s the guy you’re really worried about,” Smith-Pelly said. “If he gets one, chances are it’s going to snowball the wrong way for us. We did a good job and we’re going to continue to play hard on all their guys.”
Again, it’s not all bad, though.
Of course, the troubling thing for the Canadiens and other teams is that the Lightning are winning even with opponents neutralizing Stamkos. The line of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov is picking up the slack to the point that his struggles haven’t been fatal. The Bolts are hoping they can keep this pick-your-poison proposition going.
For Stamkos’ perspective on his struggles, read this post.