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.)
I know Tampa didn't score, but my GOD Kucherov was incredible on that power play. His toolbox of feints and slap passes and trickery reminds me of Mario Lemieux sometimes.
— Matt Larkin (@THNMattLarkin) July 6, 2021
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)
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.