By Sarah Kwak
The Lightning knew that the bum wrist sidelining goalie Ben Bishop would be an issue at some point in their first-round series against the Canadiens. Well, the moment came on Friday night in Tampa Bay. Backup Anders Lindback had been serviceable in Wednesday’s Game 1, making 39 saves in a 5-4 overtime loss, but in Game 2, he wasn’t nearly as good. Lindback surrendered three goals on 23 shots before Lightning coach Jon Cooper yanked him in favor of Kristers Gudlevskis, a Latvian minor leaguer who gained fame in Sochi for nearly defeating Team Canada. Against Montreal, he didn’t fare so well, allowing a goal on just three shots as the Canadiens cruised to a 4-1 victory.
By taking both of the first two games in Tampa Bay, Montreal put itself in position to make this series a short one. After all, beating Canadiens goalie Carey Price in four out of the next five games seems like a particularly tall order. Price has followed up his career season and a gold medal in Sochi with strong play in the first two postseason games. He made 26 saves on Friday night, including a spectacular one on Lightning center Cedric Paquette in the second period. But hey, if Montreal’s offense gets into the habit of scoring four-plus goals a night, Price may not have to play the hero too often.
Here are a few more observations from Friday’s game:
• Game 1 wasn’t the greatest display of defensively sound hockey by either team. But on Friday, the Canadiens adjusted and returned to their stifling selves. They kept Tampa Bay from getting much traffic in front of Price and forced shots from the outside. Nineteen of the Lightning’s 27 shots came from 30 feet out or beyond. And though Tampa Bay center Steven Stamkos led his team with four shots, he got few quality chances thanks to the smothering work of Montreal defensemen Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin.
• The Canadiens finally got something from their abysmal power play. Before Montreal scored early in the second period -- when defenseman P.K. Subban patiently scanned the point before making a sweet shot-pass to an open David Desharnais on the doorstep -- the Canadiens had been 0-for-27 since March 25. Of course, a potent power play isn’t a necessity to win a Cup (the 2011 Bruins, for example), but it sure helps.
• If the Lightning are to get back in this series, they cannot rely on Stamkos alone. With Montreal’s defense suffocating the star’s space, Tampa Bay needs to get more from its secondary scorers. The line of Teddy Purcell, Ryan Callahan and Valtteri Filppula generated the team’s only goal on Friday night -- with goalie Gudlevskis pulled and the extra attacker on with less than two minutes remaining in the game -- but it was too late. The Lightning need to generate more offense, and more importantly, maintain possession in the offensive zone.