3 Takeaways: Canadiens fight off sweep vs. Lightning in Game 4 OT

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In the beginning of Game 4, the Canadiens looked awfully flat against the Lightning. Heading into OT, it felt like the Stanley Cup was flat-out there for the Lightning to take. All things considered, then, it’s flat-out impressive that the Canadiens won Game 4 (3-2 in OT).

As the series shifts to Tampa Bay for Game 5 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBC / Peacock), the Canadiens still face a monumental task in trying to “reverse-sweep” the Lightning. However that goes, Game 4 highlighted a lot of what got the Canadiens to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final in the first place.

Here are three takeaways from the Canadiens’ Game 4 OT win over the Lightning.

But first, enjoy Josh Anderson‘s Game 4 OT-winner again:

1. Canadiens’ penalty kill thwarts Lightning power play in Game 4

It would have been an enormous shame for the Lightning to win the Stanley Cup via a four-minute power play in Game 4. That thought stood even if Shea Weber was absolutely guilty of high-sticking (and bloodying) Ondrej Palat.

Instead, that high-stakes situation provided a showcase for a Canadiens penalty kill that can still make a difference.

Naturally, killing that extended Lightning power play in OT is the headliner for the Canadiens’ penalty kill unit. Especially since one of the best chances ended up being a shorthanded opportunity.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

That brilliance extends to Game 4 as a whole, too. The Lightning power play ended Game 5 at 0-for-5, while the Canadiens didn’t score a power-play goal on their lone opportunity.

Heading into the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, it was a battle of strengths. The Lightning’s power play looked like an unstoppable juggernaut. Meanwhile, the Canadiens didn’t allow a power-play goal against the Jets or the Golden Knights.

So far, we’ve seen shifts, yet the Lightning power play had done enough to give Tampa Bay an edge. Even in Game 4, it’s true that Tampa Bay moved the puck well — at times. (Victor Hedman also seemed convinced that he scored a PPG, only to hit a post.)

Still, the Canadiens penalty kill disrupted the Lightning’s power play often enough to get the job done. It was a huge difference in Game 4. Maybe it will be a confidence-booster going forward for Montreal?

2. The return of “Playoff Carey Price

Thanks to those PK heroics and Josh Anderson’s big goals, the story of Game 4 was Canadiens resiliency. If it weren’t for Carey Price, they might not have gotten that far, though.

Again, the Canadiens began Game 4 ice cold. It took them almost 12 minutes to even register a shot on goal against Andrei Vasilevskiy. Considering how boisterous the crowd was in Montreal, their great run could have ended on a real downer.

Carey Price made sure that didn’t happen. Price stopped 32 out of 34 shots in Game 4, and while you can quibble with a rebound or two, you can mostly chalk up Tampa Bay’s goals to mistakes by Price’s Habs teammates.

Now, this doesn’t erase everything that happened before Game 4. Even with this win, Price’s save percentage is .867 (up from .835) during the 2021 Stanley Cup Final series itself.

If the Canadiens want to “reverse-sweep” the Lightning, they’ll need more of the Carey Price we saw in Game 4, and generally the guy who stood on his head leading up to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Better late than never?

3. Adjustments mostly paid off

Winning tends to mend wounds. It can paint over mistakes, too.

In the grand scheme of things, there was a feeling of “too little, too late” to the Canadiens’ Game 4 adjustments.

  • It’s good that the Canadiens dressed Alexander Romanov, who scored in Game 4. That said, it’s puzzling Game 4 marked just his third playoff game during this 2021 Stanley Cup Final run. (The case is similar for Brett Kulak, though it’s maybe a tad less dramatic.)
  • Um, did Tomas Tatar offend someone? For a Montreal team that could use more offense, it’s bewildering that he still can’t crack the lineup.
  • Look, it’s a slog to go as deep as Game 4 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, and the Canadiens won. That slow start was a little odd in front of a home crowd, though.

Ultimately, maybe the biggest adjustment was scoring that first goal. Granted, it sure felt like the Lightning actually pushed harder to score first, but the Canadiens got it, and eventually won Game 4.

Will the Canadiens make the adjustments needed, win the special teams battle, and get a keyed-in Carey Price for Game 5 vs. the Lightning? We’ll find out on in Game 5 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBC / Peacock).

CANADIENS VS. LIGHTNING (TB leads series 3-1)

Game 1: Lightning 5, Canadiens 1
Game 2: Lightning 3, Canadiens 1
Game 3: Lightning 6, Canadiens 3
Game 4: Canadiens 3, Lightning 2 (OT)
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

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.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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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

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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

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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

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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.