The Tampa Bay Lightning will be looking to lift the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night and complete their repeat bid against the Montreal Canadiens.
The series shifts back to Tampa Bay following Montreal’s 3-2 overtime win on Monday night for Game 5 (8 p.m. ET; NBC / Peacock) and we get you ready for the action with three keys to the game.
1. Special Teams
This was always going to be an interesting matchup because the Tampa Bay power play and Montreal penalty kill were both operating at historic levels entering the series.
Tampa Bay’s power play was clicking at over 40 percent through the first three rounds.
Montreal’s penalty kill was over 90 percent, and had gone two consecutive series without allowing a single goal.
[NHL ON NBC STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
Something had to give, and so far it has been the Montreal penalty kill having a slight edge. Tampa Bay’s power play is just 2-for-12 through the first four games of the series, and had a particularly tough game in their Game 4 loss when they went 0-for-4, including a failed attempt on a four-minute double minor that stretched into overtime for three full minutes on a clean, fresh sheet of ice.
The Canadiens penalty kill has more than done its job in this series.
On the other side, the Canadiens have had just seven power play opportunities in total for the series, and only two over the past two games.
For as good as Montreal’s penalty kill has been the more it keeps giving Tampa Bay the bulk of the chances the more likely it is that the Lightning are going to to start converting.
2. Carey Price
Price played by far his best game of the series on Monday night and looked more like the goalie he was in the first three rounds of the playoffs. It is a big reason the Canadiens were able to win and extend the series.
You can be sure they will need a repeat of that performance on Wednesday.
The Lightning have really started to tilt the ice in their favor over the past two games and have held a commanding lead in shot attempts and scoring chances in Games 3 and 4 of the series. That puts a lot of pressure on the goaltending (in this case Price) to keep his team in the game.
In Game 3 Price struggled and all of that pressure turned into a Tampa Bay rout.
In Game 4, with a similar territorial edge for Tampa Bay, he was great and it turned into a Canadiens win.
They will no doubt need that again.
3. Same process should produce better result for Lightning
This kind of goes hand in hand with the second key here, but the Lightning have definitely turned up the pressure in Games 3 and 4 of the series in terms of zone time, territorial play, and chances.
Their Game 4 effort and process was a winning style. They simply did not get the result. If they can duplicate that process, though, the result show follow.
[Lightning need to stick with same approach for Game 5 of Stanley Cup Final]
Andrei Vasilevskiy does not give up three goals very often.
The Lightning have not lost consecutive playoff games since the 2019 postseason.
They are probably not going to hit the post three times again.
Their power play is overdue for a big game.
The talent is there. The process is there. If that continues the result will be there as well.
2021 NHL playoff schedule: Stanley Cup Final – (TB leads 3-1) – livestream link
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)
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.