The Tampa Bay Lightning are just too good for the Montreal Canadiens.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are halfway to their goal of winning another Stanley Cup. The Lightning brought their “C” game to Amalie Arena on Wednesday night, and they were still able to beat Montreal 3-1 to take two games to none series lead.
Although Montreal played much better in game two, many are scratching their heads wondering how this team is in the Stanley Cup Finals.
This was a night that the Lightning played their worst period of hockey so far in the playoffs. Montreal was only able to get one puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy, and that was on a puck that was deflected.
We are seeing Andrei Vasilevskiy at his best in this Stanley Cup Final. Vasilevskiy is giving up one goal per game through the first two games of the cup final, and both goals have been deflection goals.
The Lightning knows they did not play their best on Wednesday night. Ryan McDonagh talked about Vasilevskiy’s performance, saying, “Thankfully, one guy had his level where it needed to be.”
Vasilevskiy tries to be consistent game in and game out. “Whatever happens, win or lose, I’m just trying to go out there and play my best game, and now we’re up two games. It doesn’t matter, up two games, down two games, it’s the same routine, same compete level.”
If not for the play of Vasilevskiy on Wednesday night, the series would be going back to Montreal tied up at one game apiece.
The Canadiens have looked overmatched at times and don’t have the offensive firepower to match the Lightning goal for goal. Montreal outshot the Lightning 43-23 in game two, and the Lightning was able to score three goals.
None of the three goals scored by the Lightning in game two came from the top offensive players. Anthony Cirelli, Blake Coleman, and Ondrej Palat scored for the Bolts in their 3-1 win.
Even with Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Braydon Point shutout on the score sheet, this team is so deep offensively that they can still beat you on an off night.
Now, the series will shift to the Bell Centre in Montreal for games three and four. This could be the last road trip of the season for the Lightning. The Bolts will be looking to close out the Canadiens on their home ice with wins in games three and four.
What can the Canadiens do to try to get back in the series? Play as they did in period two of Wednesday night’s game. Win the loose puck battles and force Tampa to turn the puck over, creating odd-man rushes.
Defensemen Shea Weber talked about Montreal’s effort. “I thought we played a pretty solid game all around. We did make a couple of mistakes that obviously hurt us. They’re an opportunistic team that can make you pay. But I definitely thought we deserved a little bit better.”
No one is panicking inside the Montreal locker room. The Habs trailed Toronto three games to one in the first round of the playoffs and came back to win three straight to win the series.
The Canadiens outplayed the Lightning overall in game two. You have to play an almost perfect game to beat the Lightning, and even then, this Tampa team is so talented that it may not get you the win.
The atmosphere in Montreal at the Bell Centre will be much different than it was in Tampa. The Lightning hosted near-capacity crowds in both games at Amalie Arena.
Montreal will host 3500 fans inside the Bell Centre. The Canadiens petitioned the government to allow 10,500 fans in the arena, but the government turned down that request.
The Tampa Bay Lightning looks like a team on a mission, while Montreal looks like a team trying to find their game and play consistently. Perhaps game two was a start for the Canadiens.
For Lightning fans, it’s still too early to start the celebration. But the champagne is on ice. Tonight’s game will determine whether there will be another home game in Tampa.
A Lightning win and this series could be a sweep for the Lightning. A Canadiens win, and they give themselves a chance to get back in the series and a big confidence boost to beat the Lightning.
—The Lightning are 12-1-1 against the Canadiens since the 2017-18 season.
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