Lightning too much for Canadiens in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

No, it didn’t always feel like the 5-1 final score. Still, the Tampa Bay Lightning looked like the heavy favorites in Game 1, taking a 1-0 series lead against the Canadiens.

Quick start, quick strikes from Bolts

It didn’t take the Lightning very long to take a 1-0 lead over the Canadiens in Game 1. They went up 1-0 less than seven minutes into the contest.

On one hand, Erik Cernak found some open space in a dangerous area in transition. On the other hand, it was kind of a funky one. If Game 1 is any indication, you might not beat Carey Price or Andrei Vasilevskiy cleanly very often during the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Through the first period, both teams were whistled for a penalty apiece (penalties that drew criticism on Hockey Twitter). Neither team was able to score a power play goal, so that marks 31 consecutive successful penalty kills for the Canadiens. That streak would eventually end in garbage time, when Steven Stamkos scored a 5-1 goal at a strange angle.

During the second period, Yanni Gourde pounced on another Montreal turnover to make it 2-0. But Vasilevskiy and Price made some big saves before Ben Chiarot joined Erik Cernak as unexpected Game 1 scorers.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Being that Chiarot’s goal came with a bit more than two minutes remaining in the second period, the Habs must have felt a lift going into the third. Then they experienced a painful gut-punch.

Once again, the Lightning made the Canadiens pay for a turnover in Game 1. It first appeared that Ondrej Palat batted in a nice transition feed from Nikita Kucherov. Instead, the puck last went off of Ben Chiarot. (Kucherov would receive credit for the goal.)

Credit Chiarot for scoring a goal, but the Habs likely hope he isn’t so noticeable in Game 2 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN / Peacock), and beyond.

Bloody Gallagher, but not much drama late in Game 1 of Canadiens – Lightning

That 3-1 goal earlier in third created distance. A sweet little set play, complete with a Nikita Kucherov (or was it Brayden Point?) tally after a faceoff, made Game 1 fairly academic.

Realistically speaking, a 4-1 score likely meant that the rest of Game 1 of Canadiens – Lightning would revolve around violence. Things got chippy, at times, including scrum that left Brendan Gallagher bloody.

The two teams piled up most of their Game 1 penalties when things weren’t close. That Stamkos PPG was mostly irrelevant, aside from ending Montreal’s astounding PK streak at 31 kills.

There was nastiness between the Habs and Bolts in Game 1. It was close for stretches. But did Montreal manage to make Tampa Bay comfortable all that often? They’ll need to do better or Game 2 could look more like the third period than the Canadiens would prefer.

CANADIENS VS. LIGHTNING  (TBL leads 1-0) – series livestream link

Game 1: Lightning 5, Canadiens 1
Game 2Wed. June 30: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
Game 3Fri. July 2: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
Game 4Mon. July 5: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 5Wed. July 7: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 6Fri. July 9: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 7Sun. July 11: Canadiens at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (NBC)

*if necessary

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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