Lightning-Canadiens: 3 keys to Game 4 of Stanley Cup Final

The Stanley Cup will be in the building in Montreal on Monday night.

The Tampa Bay Lightning will have a chance to win their second consecutive Stanley Cup when they face the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final (8 p.m. ET, NBC;  livestream). They enter the game with a commanding 3-0 series lead and will have an opportunity to complete the sweep, becoming just the fourth team in more than 30 years to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

We get you ready for Game 4 with three keys to watch for as the Canadiens try to extend the series.

[NHL ON NBC STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

1. Montreal finally makes some roster changes

Whether or not they are changes that will make a difference remains to be seen. But they are changes.

On defense, the Canadiens are putting Alexander Romanov and Brett Kulak into the lineup, a move that seems long overdue given how good that duo was during the regular season. Romanov has appeared in just two games this postseason while Kulak has played in just 11 games. Neither has played in more than two weeks. Is that pairing going to be enough to slow down the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, and the rest of the Lightning offense? Probably not. But at this point when you are down 3-0 in a series any little improvement you can get is needed.

The other change will see Jake Evans enter the lineup in place of Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

[Canadiens Make Lineup Changes For Game 4 Of Stanley Cup Final]

This is an interesting move because Kotkaniemi is one of the Canadiens’ leading goal scorers this postseason and also one of their most efficient offensive players based on ice time. Taking him out of the lineup in a situation where the Canadiens need to win and need goals is curious to say the least.

It is especially curious when consider their changes still will not result in Tomas Tatar getting playing time. Tatar has played in just five games this postseason and has not played since Game 5 of the First Round against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is so stunning because he has been their top offensive player for three years now, has great chemistry with Philip Danault and Brendan Gallagher on the already quietly dominant top line, and the team is facing elimination in a series where goal scoring is a problem.

This all means the Canadiens are going to try to avoid elimination without their top point producer over the past three seasons and one of their most efficient offensive players this postseason in a series where they can not score goals. Not exactly maximizing your roster.

2. Andrei Vasilevskiy goes for another series clinching shutout

Vasilevskiy should be the Conn Smythe favorite at this point in the playoffs. He has not only been Tampa Bay’s most important player this postseason, he is also playing some of the best hockey of his career.

He also has an opportunity to extend his already NHL record streak of series-clinching shutouts. Vasilevskiy has ended four consecutive series (Stanley Cup Final a year ago, plus all three series this postseason) with shutouts, and has a chance to clinch another Stanley Cup that way on Monday. Expecting him to do so is obviously setting a ridiculously high bar, but he has already set that bar for himself by playing at this level for this long. He is a special player doing special things on the biggest stage under the brightest lights.

He is the best goalie in hockey. He is playing like it. Again.

3. Montreal needs Carey Price to be at his best

These two statements are equally true.

  • Carey Price is the single biggest reason the Montreal Canadiens are playing in the Stanley Cup Final.
  • Carey Price is struggling so far in the Stanley Cup Final.

The second point is not the only reason the Canadiens are in this current situation facing a 3-0 series deficit, but it is one of the reasons. They are losing the goalie matchup in this series by a significant margin, and if the Canadiens are going to make this a series again that is going to have to change starting on Monday night.

It is a complete 180 from what we saw from him over the first three rounds where he was producing at an elite level. His all situations save percentage, even-strength save percentage, penalty kill save percentage, and scoring chance save percentage were all among the best in the league. When the Canadiens needed a save, he made it. When they need him to put the team on his back and carry it, he carried it. It was vintage Price.

We have not seen that so far in this series.

His save percentage so far in the Stanley Cup Final would be the lowest of any goalie, in any series this postseason.

Is that all on him? Not at all. The Canadiens have made countless mistakes that have fed into Tampa Bay’s transition game, something you can not do against that team. The defensive play has been lacking. And the offense (or lack of it) speaks for itself. But the easiest way for Montreal to get back into this is Price turning into superman again. Maybe that is an unfair ask. Maybe it is unreasonable. But sometimes you need the unreasonable to beat a team like Tampa Bay.

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)

*if necessary

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    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.