Lightning striking first has winning results in playoffs

MONTREAL — Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper says scoring first shouldn’t change a team’s approach.

It has worked so far for the defending champions in building a 2-0 lead in their Stanley Cup Final series against the Montreal Canadiens.

Tampa Bay has not only scored first in both games, it has yet to trail following a 3-1 win on Wednesday, and the series shifting to Montreal for Game 3 on Friday and Game 4 on Monday.

“It shouldn’t change the way you play,” Cooper said Thursday. “Regardless of the score, you should keep trying to dictate play, and not getting in that little sit-back mode.”

The Lightning are 14-2 when scoring first in the playoffs, and 0-4 when giving up the first goal.

The Canadiens have also been dominant in that category. They’re 11-2 when scoring first and 1-6 when falling behind 1-0.

Montreal assistant coach Luke Richardson said there were many positives in how his team responded in Game 2, playing much better after a 5-1 series-opening loss. If not for Andrei Vasilevskiy stopping 42 shots, including 28 of 29 through two periods, the Canadiens had numerous chances to score first.

“Now we’ve just got to compete at the same level and push to finish a little bit better and maybe, you know, score the first goal and play with the lead in this series and see where it takes us,” Richardson said.


Quebec public health officials denied the Canadiens request to increase attendance inside the Bell Centre from 3,500 to 10,500. They are, however, increasing the number of people allowed to gather outdoors to 5,000.

Outdoor viewing parties are planned in Montreal’s entertainment district starting Friday night. That’s in addition to the large crowd that will be gathered in the plaza around the arena.

“We are slowly recovering from a historic pandemic, and this unifying moment that represents the Stanley Cup final is coming at the right time,” Mayor Valérie Plante said. “As of this Friday, Montrealers will have the opportunity to encourage their favorite hockey team, a source of pride for our metropolis, in its quest for (their) 25th Stanley Cup.”

Masks are recommended and groups of people not from the same household will be required to remain about five feet apart. The city closes numerous streets on game days and weekends to allow for bars and restaurants to increase their outdoor seating capacity.


Cooper said injured Tampa Bay forward Alex Killorn would be in Montreal after missing Game 2. His status and those of other players who got banged up but kept playing Wednesday are all uncertain.

“I’ll answer that tomorrow,” Cooper said.


Blake Coleman on Wednesday became just the fourth player to Cup Final history to score the game-winning goal in the final two seconds of a period. He joins Jeff Carter in 2014, Mike Bossy in 1982 and Bob Pulford in 1964. Coleman scored with 1.1 seconds remaining in the second period.


Canadiens second-year forward Nick Suzuki became Montreal’s third player to score 10 goals in one playoff before turning 22. Suzuki’s second-period goal in Game 3 gave him 10 goals and 21 points in 29 career postseason games.

A little over a month shy of his 22nd birthday, Suzuki joined Claude Lemieux and Stephane Richer, who each scored 14.

Veteran teammate Eric Staal said the 5-foot-11 Suzuki reminds him of former teammate Ray Whitney, who went on to score 385 goals and 1,064 points in 1,330 career NHL games over 22 seasons. At 5-foot-10, Whitney was also a smaller forward.

“Smaller, but uber competitive and intelligent with the puck, and that’s kind of what Nick was,” Staal said. “He puts himself in good positions to be able to do the right things defensively, but also create offense.”

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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports

    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

    caufield surgery
    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports

    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

    matty beniers
    Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.