Rabid Habs

Canadiens vs. Lightning: Game #1

Habs' David Desharnais

“It took us a while to find out who we were going to play. Once we knew, we just wanted to drop the puck. On the other hand, I’m sure the Lightning are saying the same thing. It’s going to be an emotional series, a hard-fought series.” – Brendan Gallagher

After beating the Ottawa Senators two to nothing in game six of round one, the Montreal Canadiens would be hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre for game one of round two in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was over a year ago that the Canadiens swept the Bolts in four games during the first round of the playoffs, something that Tampa didn’t take lightly as they swept the Canadiens in five games during the 2014-15 regular season. For the Canadiens, the troops would need to change their approach towards Tampa and while their home-ice advantage may make a difference in the series, the Habs will still want to fight hard for the full 60 minutes (as they did in the first round against the Senators) in order to show the dominance they lost against the team that made their regular season look like a flop. As for the other side of the ice, the Lightning changed up their road record against the Red Wings during round one (two to one). While it’s nearly impossibly to project regular season statistics into the playoffs, Tampa held a puck possession advantage of 56.71 CF% over their five match ups as well as keeping the Canadiens stuck in their own zone and outshooting Therrien’s troops 170-120 overall. Nevertheless, it’s do or die for Montreal. They can either prove the Lightning wrong and advance to round three or get thunderstruck.

The Canadiens had a few good opportunities to put the puck past Ben Bishop early in the period (which barely beat him), but a number of turnovers in the Tampa zone was what really showed what the Habs were made of as they had four shot attempts in the first five minutes. The troops came out swinging again, getting physical and keeping the pucks coming back to the Bolts side of the ice. While their power play near the end at seven minutes and eight seconds didn’t pan out as planned, the Canadiens ended their strong scoreless first period leading 19 to 11 in hits and the shots staying at an even 12.

Despite the second period once again ending scoreless, the Canadiens still had a strong game going. They brought on the pressure early, with the Lars EllerDevante Smith PellyBrandon Prust line getting in 11 shot attempts. An Alex Galchenyuk high-sticking penalty gave the Lightning the opportunity to try and put pucks on net, but the Habs were able to effectively kill it off and grab a power play of their own. However, they still couldn’t solve Ben Bishop and while there was almost a perfect short-handed goal from a two on one with Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec, the puck went right into Bishop’s glove. All in all, the Canadiens came out strong, leading 22 to 19 in shots.

Tampa got another chance on the power play only a minute into the third period, but it wasn’t until after the power play ended that Tyler Johnson gave the Lightning their first goal of the night at two minutes and 34 seconds (assisted by Matthew Carle and Andrej Sustr). However, with five minutes and 13 seconds left, Max Pacioretty (assisted by P.K. Subban and Tom Gilbert) had a breakthrough shot, putting the Canadiens at a one to one tie. The Lightning tried to keep the Habs out of the Tampa zone by bringing on the pressure, but there wasn’t enough time so Tampa and Montreal were going into overtime.

After the first overtime period became a bust, Tampa scored the overtime winner thanks to Nikita Kucherov just two minutes and six seconds in.

The Montreal Canadiens face the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Bell Centre at 6:00pm on Sunday.

(Purchase your Canadiens tickets here. | Achetez vos billets des Canadiens ici.)

Follow Jessica-Lyn on Twitter: @EarlxGreat.