The Tampa Bay Lightning are a win away from being the first team to sweep a Stanley Cup final series since 1998 after beating the Montreal Canadiens 6-3 on Friday evening.
It wasn't the homecoming the Canadiens were hoping for, marking the team's first Stanley Cup final appearance in Bell Centre history and the first in Montreal since 1993. The Lightning have a chance to close the series out with a victory on Monday, which would make them the first team to go 4-0 in the Cup final since Detroit swept Washington 23 years ago.
The battle started ugly for Montreal. At 1:52, Jan Rutta's point shot beat the right arm of Carey Price and in for the 1-0 goal, a shot the Canadiens netminder definitely would want back. Then, two minutes later, Victor Hedman doubled the advantage with a similar shot from the same side, putting Montreal down in a tough spot in the club's first Stanley Cup final home game in 28 years.
But the Canadiens weren't prepared to back down that easily in the first. At 11:16, Phillip Danault rushed into the zone and wasted no time getting a quick wrister off, beating Vasilevskiy for the 2-1 goal. The goal sparked Montreal's effort, as the club seemed to take back some of Tampa's control to put up a fight near the end of the opening stanza.
Despite the increase in offensive pressure by the Canadiens in the first, they couldn't turn that into anything tangible in the second. At 1:40 in the middle frame, Nikita Kucherov finished a 2-on-0 with Ondrej Palat to restore Tampa's lead. Tyler Johnson scored just under two minutes later to make it 4-1 for the Lightning - starting the second off exactly how they did in the first.
The Canadiens held a 25-21 shot advantage after 40 minutes, but high-danger chances were a rare occurrence for the home squad. The Lightning did a good job of limiting the Canadiens to the perimeter and out of scoring danger. But at 18:04 in the second, the Canadiens were able to breathe some life into a building that was starting to lose its voice. Nick Suzuki would score on a goal that just squeaked under Vasilevskiy's right pad and in, an unusual goal for the star goaltender to allow.
Montreal would get a flurry of chances in the third, showing a bit of life in a game they weren't totally out of yet. But at 15:19, a costly turnover from Erik Gustafsson resulted in Tampa taking a 5-2 lead, one that knocked the Canadiens out of contention. Corey Perry scored a tight-angle shot less than a minute later, but an empty-netter from Blake Coleman sealed the deal for the defending Stanley Cup champions.