As in the opening round against the Bruins, the Habs dropped the second game of the second round by a score of 3-1 against the Bolts. While this game saw stretches of Canadien dominance, there were still far too many simple errors both mental and of execution that killed any Montreal chances.
While the Habs came out with infinitely more jump than in game one, they still managed to fall behind after taking a couple of poor penalties in succession, giving the talented Bolts a two-man advantage. At the 2:35 mark of the first, none other than Vince Lecavalier potted his third of the series when he picked up a loose puck off a couple of stellar Jose Theodore saves and stuffed it home.
As has become typical in this series so far, the Habs were beaten repeatedly to pucks and the goal a few minutes later was no exception. Joe Juneau lost his battle on the side boards and as a result the puck made it back to the point where Brad Richards blasted on net. The rebound was chopped in by Modin, to once again give the Bolts an early and large lead.
It could have been much, much worse. Jose Theodore was in his Hart and Vezina form on this night, saving breakaway chances and in close attempts all night. If the Canadiens could go to the dressing room not down by six or seven goals it was because of his stellar play. Ruslan Fedotenko was allowed to come in alone on Theodore and the Canadiens netminder made a brilliant pad stop. Moments later, it was Dimitry Afanasenkov who tested Theo, but again the Montreal netminder held his ground spectacularly.
Nearing the end of the period, the Habs finally solved Nik Khabulin when Saku Koivu, perched on the doorstep, took a couple of hacks at a loose puck, finally chipping one over the Tampa goaltender. It was a power play goal, and the result of some good work by the entire unit. Andrei Markov made a nice play to keep the puck in at the line, and moments later fired a wonderful cross-ice pass to Alex Kovalev for a one-time shot.
The second period was easily the best for Montreal in the series and they dominated long stretches. They put together strings where their energy was much better than that of Tampa and had numerous chances to even up the score. Unfortunately for them, Khabibulin played an extraordinary game. Then, right at the end of the period, and with momentum clearly on the side of the Canadiens, a series of mental mistakes cost a goal, and possibly any chance at the game. Sheldon Souray carried the puck up ice, but lost control at the Tampa blue line with no pressure. Craig Rivet failed to back up his cohort and Lecavalier was the recipient of a clean clearance pass. His low shot beat Theodore to sink the Habs boat. It was fairly obvious in the third that the Habs were a beaten team.
They failed to generate any of the energy and pressure than they’d succeeded with in the second, and utterly failed to make Khabibulin work. They faded quietly into blackness at the end of the game and now go back to Montreal down two and with a huge uphill climb. It’s up to Claude Julien to somehow find the way for his boys and to get them to believe that the second period of this one wasn’t a fluke, but the real thing. If he can do that, the Habs are in business, if not, it could be lights out really quickly in this one.