Stamkos, Lightning power play come alive in Game 2 win over Canadiens
Behind four power play goals, the Lightning delivered a statement game on Sunday night in Montreal, extending their series lead with a 6–2 win in Game 2. Tampa Bay]s young offensive wizards—Game 1 double-OT scorer Nikita Kucherov and center Tyler Johnson—chipped in two points each, and connected on the eventual game-winner with a sleek tic-tac-toe passing play that left Montreal goalie Carey Price in a hopeless position. Price, a Vezina and Hart Trophy favorite, has not allowed six goals in a game in nearly two years. His .750 save percentage on Sunday was his worst in a complete game since 2010, but he wasn’t at all to blame for the Canadiens’ collapse. This was a full-team meltdown.
Here are three thoughts on Tampa Bay’s Game 2 takedown:
1. Oh, hi, Steven Stamkos. There you are.
Going into Sunday, the Lightning’s premier scorer had gone nine games without a goal, the longest drought the two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner has experienced since his rookie season in 2008-09. He was well contained by the Red Wings’ defensive masters in the first round, and in the eyes of Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, Stamkos’s time to shine was imminent. Kept off the score sheet by the Canadiens in Game 1, the center stepped into the spotlight Sunday, scoring his first goal since April 9 and adding two assists in the win. Taking a long feed through the neutral zone from defenseman Jason Garrison, Stamkos broke in one-on-one on Price. Going backhand-forehand with a rolling puck, he scored the go-ahead goal that put Tampa Bay up 2–1 early in the second period, a lead the Bolts would not surrender. With three points in this game, Stamkos doubled his postseason production. After the series against Detroit, Cooper noted that the fact the Lightning moved on despite Stamkos’s relative lack of offense in the series could only be taken as a good sign going forward. Well, after the big game from their offensive catalyst, Cooper’s analysis looks spot on.
2. Tampa Bay’s power play made all the difference, so the Bolts can thank Montreal for all the practice.
The Lightning had not converted on their last 24 attempts on the power play, until Valtteri Filppula finally scored on a snap shot from the right circle in the last minute of the first period. Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban was in the box, serving a two-minute minor for cross-checking Ryan Callahan. It was the Canadiens’ second bad penalty of the period after Brandon Prust took a double-minor for roughing then an unsportsmanlike conduct for apparently mouthing off to an official, but there were plenty more to come. The Habs took 13 penalties, including 10-minute misconducts by Prust and Dale Weise. The entire reason why Tampa Bay’s power play could be so effective, going 4-for-8, was because of Montreal’s inability to stay out of the penalty box. The Canadiens’ lack of discipline will have to be addressed going forward if they plan to extend this series beyond four games.
3. After losing two games at home, the Canadiens are truly in tough.
Going 0-2 at home isn’t always an immediate death sentence, and the Habs should know that. In 2011, they took the first two games against Boston at TD Garden only to have the Bruins to roar back and win the series in seven games. But the last time Montreal dropped its first two at home was just last year against the Rangers. Though the Canadiens forced that series to six games, their 0-2 hole proved to be too deep. And for an offensively challenged team like Montreal, it can feel like an even steeper mountain to climb. The Habs' only way back into the series will be to forget Game 2 and search for a spark offensively. Though Subban leads the team in scoring this postseason, the rest of the defense corps had been quiet up to this point. Before Game 2, Montreal’s defensemen accounted for just 70 shots in these playoffs, about 26% of the team’s total. On Sunday, the Habs’ D corps was more active, generating seven shots and producing both of Montreal’s goals. Jeff Petry scored 7:20 into the game, a screened point shot that eluded Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop. And midway through the third period, Tom Gilbert connected on a slap shot from 60 feet out. There weren’t many positives to take from Montreal’s game Sunday night, but this was one of them.