Montreal Canadiens (46-28-8) at Tampa Bay Lightning (46-27-9)
|Date & Time||Friday April 18, 2014, 7:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Tampa Bay Lightning -115 / Montreal Canadiens +105 --- Over/Under: 5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+ for only $4.99 a month. Sign up now!|
What an exciting Game 1 we got in our Atlantic Division match up between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night. These two clubs played during the regular season and never saw more than four goals scored combined in any game. That changed dramatically in this one and it was a heck of a lot of fun to watch. Nikita Kucherov's goal just past the midway point of the opening period gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead, but this was a game that was dominated by the Montreal Canadiens for much of the night. Montreal answered back on 19 seconds later on Tomas Plekanec's and they finished the period with a 14-4 advantage in shots. It was clear that head coach Michel Therrien instructed his club to get the puck on goal early and often in this one and they certainly did that. The Canadiens know that Ben Bishop is the biggest reason the Lightning are where they are right now, and without him in the lineup they really needed to test back up goaltender Anders Lindback routinely. The Canadiens did that in this one but still found themselves trailing after a beautiful play by Steven Stamkos in the second period resulted in a snipe past the pads of Carey Price on the far side after Stamkos went end to end down the right wall. Montreal answered right back with a shorthanded goal from Brian Gionta that really was a huge key in this game. Montreal had controlled the game for long stretches but were in jeopardy of going down by a pair of goals until Gionta bailed them out. In the third period is where things really got crazy. Lars Eller's go ahead goal for Montreal was answered by Alex Killorn for Tampa Bay just two minutes later. Thomas Vanek then tallied for the Canadiens only to have Stamkos tap in a beautiful feed from Killorn two minutes after that to tie the game up at 4-4. Killorn was then penalized with 2:01 remaining in regulation, but the Lightning penalty killers did a fantastic job of getting the game to overtime. In these extra sessions in the post season we've seen so many times unexpectated names come through with the game winning goal, and this one was no difference. With under two minutes to play in overtime Dale Weise set up to the right of Lindback and buried a beautiful feed from Daniel Briere that came from behind the net. Weise, a fourth liner acquired at the trading deadline from the Vancouver Canucks, was probably the last player on the ice the Lightning were worried about.
We saw these two teams show off their offensive fire power and there certainly is a lot of it in this series. P.K. Subban had a brutal night for the Canadiens and Price is lucky his club was able to bail him out in this one after he allowed four goals on 25 shots. For the Lightning it was an unacceptable start in the opening frame on home ice, and though they made their way through the period tied 1-1, it set a tone for the rest of the hockey game. Lindback actually played well in this one despite allowing five goals on the night. If not for their goaltender the Lightning could have been out of this one early on. This series is far from over and there should be a bunch of one goal games between these two teams, but it would behoove the Lightning to find a way to win Game 2 on Friday. No team ever wants to fall behind two games in a series when they played them on home ice. Stamkos looked like the player we've come to know and if he keeps up his strong play the Lightning should be able to score in this series. The key is going to be whether or not Montreal is able to find their game defensively. This isn't the type of game Therrien wants to see out of his club consistently. Look for both teams to try and clean up the defensive mistakes for this one. Even if Montreal goes up two games in this series it still might not be over, but the uphill climb would be daunting for Tampa Bay. This looks like a long series between two evenly matched clubs so I'll lean toward the home club in this one.