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.
First playoff goal for Ben Chiarot in his 52nd career postseason game.
Erik Cernak scored his first playoff goal in his 46th career playoff game earlier.
— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) June 29, 2021
[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.
For those keeping score at home:
Goal 1: Chiarot and Toffoli double Palat, allowing Cernak to score.
G2: Chiarot blocks shot, goes right to Coleman before goal.
G3: Chiarot scores on double-doink.
G4: Chiarot deflects puck right to Palat for goal.
Quite a night for Ben Chiarot.
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) June 29, 2021
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.
That's a Kucherov LASER BEAM. 🚨#GoBolts | #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/Tp4ehARVH6
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) June 29, 2021
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 2: Wed. June 30: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
Game 3: Fri. July 2: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
Game 4: Mon. July 5: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 5: Wed. July 7: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 6: Fri. July 9: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
*Game 7: Sun. July 11: Canadiens at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (NBC)
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.