It should go without saying that Montreal needs a win tonight to keep any chances they have alive. No one’s coming back from a three-game deficit against this Tampa lineup and a two-game hole already looks daunting enough. Montreal’s defence and goaltending bounced back from an ugly game one performance with a better display in game two (with nothing to show for their efforts down 0-2). Tampa’s defence and goaltending have come as advertised through two games, inspiring confidence even as they hit the road for games three and four. And while we expected a low-scoring series, Montreal will need their offence to come from somewhere other than their young line of Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, and Tyler Toffoli as Tampa’s lethal line of Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point, and Nikita Kucherov has more than balanced things in the Lightning’s favour in terms of conversion.
Wednesday’s Final: Tampa Bay 3 - Montreal 1
The heavily-favoured Lightning looked like the threat we expected on home ice yet again in the first period of game two as they continued throwing everything they could in the direction of Carey Price. Desperate to even things out, however, the Canadiens got the lion’s share of the quality chances as the game went on. Andrei Vasilevskiy looked especially sharp, keeping Montreal at bay and weathering the proverbial storm until the Lightning opened the scoring midway through game on a well screened point shot from Anthony Cirelli that Price couldn’t track.
Montreal really kicked it into gear after that opening goal and, earning a powerplay along the way, converted with the extra skater on a point shot from Suzuki that, much like Tampa’s goal, seemed to redirect on multiple deflections before getting past Vasilevskiy. Montreal maintained control for a stretch after tying things up but the Lightning carried over some momentum from a late-period powerplay and buried an absolute backbreaker with mere seconds left in the second period after a defensive breakdown by Montreal.
Montreal did well to keep it within one on the road through two periods and maybe even deserved a better fate up to that point. The Lightning woke up in the third though and started making the most of their home ice advantage, and both netminders played well to keep things interesting right down to the wire. A brutal Joel Edmundson turnover below the goal line ended up sealing it in Tampa’s favour as the Lightning easily extended their lead to two goals and Montreal had no chance of getting a pair past Vasilevskiy and the Lightning defence with only a few minutes left on the clock.
Tonight’s Game: Tampa Bay @ Montreal 8PM EST (TBL leads series 2-0)
Even when accounting for score effects, Montreal has done well through the first two games to control the volume and quality of chances on the road against a very talented (duh) Tampa Bay defence (despite how ugly the back half of game one got for the Habs). It goes without saying that Montreal needs to spend less time killings penalties if they want to get back in the series now as they head back north. Even at five-on-five though, Tampa Bay has gotten plenty of looks from in close and Montreal needs to play tighter defence to keep the Lightning to the perimeters and to give Price a better chance. Tampa has done a slightly better job at forcing Montreal out of those high-danger areas for the most part and obviously Vasilevskiy has maintained his exceptional streak of post-season play.