Game one of the second round series between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning was a complete wash for the home side. The Bolts beat up on the Habs by a score of 4-0 and Nik Khabibulin barely had any work in attaining his fourth shutout of the playoffs.
The first period was anything but playoff hockey as the Habs looked nervous and unprepared while the Bolts were rusty after their lengthy layoff. The ice conditions didn’t help the game either as pucks bounced regularly over sticks and plays aborted as a result.
When Tampa took the lead in the second period, it was a result of the typical mistakes that permeated their entire game. Mike Ribeiro was slow dealing with the puck along the boards and had his pocket picked. In the end it was Ruslan Fedotenko potting the goal while Jose Theodore attempted to get his position after retrieving his lost stick.
There were few bright spots in this game, though perhaps the hustle of Jan Bulis and the physical play of Mike Komisarek could be considered somewhat pleasing. After the fourth goal had been scored, Mathieu Garon took the goal and he made a couple of fine saves late; and that in his first ever playoff appearance, though when the game was undoubtedly out of reach.
Tampa continually attacked with great speed and superior talent, sending in a heavy forecheck to cull the Montreal counterattacks. As with the first goal, the second was a direct result of this effort. Alex Kovalev, in attempting to clear the puck, had it intercepted at the line and the weak shot was deflected in front of the goal by a completely uncovered Vince Lecavalier.
The third continued the Montreal collapse and they were beaten soundly in almost every aspect of the game. Lecavalier deposited his second of the night when Francis Bouillon was attacked by two forecheckers, was unable to make a play, and thereby left the Bolts star make his way alone to the net to beat Theodore.
Goal number four saw another poor play at the blue line, this time Yanic Perreault getting his pocket picked as the Canadiens were moving up ice. Unable to get back into coverage quickly enough, Dimitri Afanasenkov was allowed to walk in alone and close the door on the Habs on this night.
There will be a series of major adjustments made by Claude Julien before the next game. The Habs played without any of the passion they showed in the Boston series, they were second to the puck all night, and there was no concerted team play, rather a series of individual plays strung together. Included in this were continual terrible mental mistakes and a complete absence of any kind of puck control.
Tampa made a bold statement at the end of the game, which might at the very least play slightly into Julien’s hands should he use it for motivation. With the game completely out of reach and only one minute remaining, with his Bolt team up by two men due to a series of Montreal penalties, John Tortorella put out his best attackers on the resultant five-on-three.
Of course, for Julien to use this as motivation of any kind, he has to find players willing to play the game and be motivated. Sunday afternoon will have that answer.