Stanley Cup Final: Bolts Strike Down Habs in Game 1by Christopher Gallagher June 29, 2021 0 comments
The Tampa Bay Lightning played host to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Monday night. Looking to lock up their second straight championship, Jon Cooper’s group was able to draw first blood in dominating fashion.
Taking a 2-1 lead into the third period after goals from defenseman Erik Cernak and forward Yanni Gourde, Tampa Bay carried play in the final frame. Receiving back-to-back goals from sniper Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning also added a late marker on the power play from captain Steven Stamkos. Kucherov paced the team with three points and leads the group with seven goals and 23 assists. Montreal was unable to muster up anything offensively after defenseman Ben Chiarot found the back of the net late in the opening period. They could not solve goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy who made 18 saves in the victory.
Tight Checking in the Opening Period
Montreal was slow from the gate, keeping the game tied through the opening five minutes. They continued with their recipe for success throughout the playoffs. However, after a solid back check, the Lightning quickly transitioned the puck up ice. The home squad opened the scoring at the 6:19 mark of the first period. Cernak’s first career playoff goal meant Tampa Bay controlled a tight-checking first period while outshooting the Canadiens 15-11. Beginning to chase the game in the second period, the defensive core of the reigning Cup champs continued to shine. The group (playing well all playoffs-long) was able to limit the second chance opportunities for the Montreal forwards.
Depth of Tampa Bay Continues to Chip In
Adding to their lead early in the second period, center Yanni Gourde contributed his sixth goal of the playoffs at 5:47. Seeing their fellow linemate Barclay Goodrow‘s initial shot off the rush blocked, Gourde was able to tip Blake Coleman‘s shot past Carey Price to extend the Tampa Bay lead. Turning the puck over in the offensive zone and giving up odd-man rushes as the game progressed, Montreal was unable to solve Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning defense. Thanks to the steady play provided by Price, the team was ultimately able to get on the score sheet after Chiarot banked a point shot off defenseman Mikhail Sergachev late in the frame. It was the first point of the postseason for the Atlanta Thrashers’ draft pick. The Canadiens trailed just 2-1, heading into the final 20 minutes.
Nikita Kucherov Shines Late
Kucherov continued his quest for the Conn Smythe Trophy after returning following offseason hip surgery. He tallied the Lightning’s third goal of the night just two minutes into the third period. The 28-year-old lofted a weak backhand on net that became batted up in the air before getting past Price and into the Montreal net. It was the sixth goal of the playoffs for the sniper. He is now up to 124 points in the playoffs throughout his seven-year NHL career. Averaging over 1.1 points per game, he remains 38 points ahead of Sidney Crosby for the top spot on the list. Later in the frame, Kucherov took a pass from Brayden Point before walking out into the slot and snapping the past puck Price for his second of the night.
Montreal Goes Quietly
The Canadiens wilted in the third period. Tampa Bay would add one more marker on the power play for good measure after defenseman Joel Edmundson got taken off for roughing. Finding Stamkos for a one-timer, the captain solved Price for his team’s fifth goal of the night. Finishing a disappointing 0-2 with the extra man, Montreal mustered just five shots on net during the third in a disappointing finish. They managed just three in the game from their young line of Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, and Tyler Toffoli. The team remained without winger Joel Armia. He was held out due to COVID-19 protocols, and speedster Jake Evans replaced him in the lineup.
Rolling along with their series on Wednesday Night, Montreal will look to rebound for Game 2. The Canadiens will play one more game with assistant coach Luke Richardson in charge behind the bench. Head coach Dominique Ducharme expects to return for Game 3. He has missed the group’s last several games after entering the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols.
Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final takes place Wednesday, June 30 at 8:00 p.m. EDT on NBCSN.
Follow Chris Gallagher on Twitter @ChrisGally06
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