The 2021 Stanley Cup Final changed scenes to Montreal for Game 3, yet the story stayed largely the same. The Lightning won Game 3 by a score of 6-3, putting the Canadiens on the verge of a sweep.
It was a troubling Game 3, particularly for Carey Price. Down 3-0 in this series, the Canadiens must find a way to win a game against the Lightning. So far, Montreal hasn’t even managed a single lead.
A brutal start for Price, Canadiens in Game 3
With 3,500 (announced, allegedly?) fans roaring in Montreal, Game 3 began as a special scene. But those good moods were dampened quickly.
Just 1:52 into Game 3, Jan Rutta sent a seeing-eye shot beyond Carey Price (his second similar goal of these 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs). It felt like the ultra-rare Price groaner, even if you consider that Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s been outperforming him. But then it more or less happened again. After Eric Staal took a puck over the glass penalty, Victor Hedman took advantage of a screen to score on the power play. About three-and-a-half minutes into Game 3, the Lightning were already up 2-0 against the Canadiens.
Rutta became the first player in NHL history to score a goal in July. Victor Hedman is the first player to score a goal in every month after collecting the second NHL July goal. With 88 points, Hedman now leads all active NHL defensemen in playoff points. Hedman came into Game 3 tied with trade rumor target Duncan Keith and Kris Letang with 86 playoff points.
(The Lightning set a new franchise record with 22 power-play goals in a single playoff run.)
Credit nerves being cooled by a time out by returning coach Dominique Ducharme, as the Habs eventually regained their focus.
Montreal got back on track, and eventually were rewarded. Phillip Danault either fooled Andrei Vasilevskiy by hinting at passing, or was originally planning to pass. Either way, Danault instead took a shot, and it was a beauty to make it 2-1.
Stunning second period
Throughout the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, the Lightning keep pouncing on Canadiens mistakes, and Game 3 was no different. In certain cases, the mistakes haven’t even been that glaring — Tampa Bay’s just that good.
In the case of the 3-1 goal, the Canadiens made a bad line change, and the Lightning scored a tremendous goal that felt like a real dagger. After a brilliant outlet pass by Erik Cernak, Ondrej Palat made a high-difficulty play to set up an impressive Nikita Kucherov backhand goal. That happened 1:40 into the second period, then Tyler Johnson stunned the Montreal crowd by making it 4-1 less than two minutes later.
Yep, that’s a brutal way to begin the first two periods of Game 3.
At times in Game 3, both Vasilevskiy and Price looked unusually human. That mostly burned Montreal, but Nick Suzuki scored his second goal of the series thanks to a lapse by Vasilevskiy. Suzuki took the puck from his zone and seemed to catch Vasilevskiy sleeping.
📺: NBC pic.twitter.com/vfcwj7WR5Z
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) July 3, 2021
Lightning push Canadiens to brink of Stanley Cup Final sweep after Game 3 win
Frankly, it wouldn’t have been outrageous for the Canadiens to rest Carey Price during the third period of Game 3. Maybe it would give Price a little breather, and perhaps even provide his teammates with a little burst (by way of shame by proxy)? The Canadiens invested quite a bit in a backup of Jake Allen‘s stature.
That didn’t happen, and not much else happened in the third period of Game 3.
For about the first 15 minutes of the third period, the score remained 4-2. Then Tyler Johnson continued a strong Game 3 with his second goal of the night. (The largely forgotten forward’s looked pretty potent, albeit in a supporting role after years as a star.)
Corey Perry beat Andrei Vasilevskiy up high to make it 5-3, but a Lightning empty-netter removed any fleeting doubt.
Could an extra night of rest make a difference? The Canadiens have to hope for better in Game 4 on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC / Peacock). To paraphrase the Linkin Park song the Canadiens played after losing Game 3, the Lightning might be so good that it won’t even matter.
2021 NHL playoff schedule: Stanley Cup Final – (TB leads 3-0)
Game 1: Lightning 5, Canadiens 1
Game 2: Lightning 3, Canadiens 1
Game 3: Lightning 6, Canadiens 3
Game 4: Mon. July 5: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock) – livestream
*Game 5: Wed. July 7: Canadiens at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock)
*Game 6: Fri. July 9: Lightning at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock)
*Game 7: Sun. July 11: Canadiens at Lightning, 7 p.m. ET (NBC / Peacock)