The Stanley Cup Finals are a strange time because it feels so sudden going from four games per night to just one every two days by this round. Also I’m not sure if I will get used to the fact that the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning, two Eastern Conference teams, are playing in the Finals.
Game 1 for the Canadiens was very similar to Game 1 against the Vegas Golden Knights, as people were expecting the better team to easily handle Montreal. Vegas followed through there, and Tampa Bay did as well on Monday as they won quite easily by a score of 5-1. Erik Cernak scored the first goal in the 1st period, and then Yanni Gourde would give the Lightning a 2-0 lead early in the 2nd period. Ben Chiarot would get his first point of the playoffs with a few minutes remaining in the period, which gave Montreal a glimmer of hope heading into the final frame.
However, an unlucky deflection off Chiarot would give the momentum back to Tampa Bay, making it 3-1 for a while. The most-likely-injured Nikita Kucherov then scored his second of the game on a wicked top-corner shot with 8:35 left, which was a dagger for the Canadiens. Steven Stamkos would add a late powerplay goal for good measure, and that was more than enough: a 5-1 final. Carey Price ended the night with an uncharacteristically low .815 SV%.
Montreal Canadiens @ Tampa Bay Lightning @ 8:00pm (TBL leads series 1-0)
I don’t think it’s crazy to suggest that the series could come down to this game. Yes, Montreal came back from 3-1 against Toronto in the first round, so anything is possible. But being down 2-0 to the juggernauts of the league and the defending Stanley Cup champions is...not exactly an ideal position to be in. The Canadiens still have at least two home games, but they cannot afford to lose tonight, otherwise they will be hanging by a thread.
On the other hand, Montreal has shown a fantastic ability to bounce back these playoffs, so I wouldn’t expect them to just accept their fate tonight. Carey Price should be better, and that could make all the difference. The hockey fan in me wants this series to be close, but the Senators fan in me is terrified of Montreal inching closer and closer to a Stanley Cup championship.