The Habs were back in action on Monday night as they tried to avoid a sweep in this Stanley Cup Final. Coach Dominique Ducharme opted for some gutsy roster changes for the game as Josh Anderson replaced Tyler Toffoli on the team’s top unit. Toffoli found himself alongside Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault. The third line was composed of Artturi Lehkonen, Paul Byron, and Jake Evans as the fourth line remained together. This meant that Tomas Tatar remained in the press box and was joined by Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Needless to say, many fans on Twitter were not too pleased with this decision. Those same fans were a bit more pleased by the changes on the blueline as the top four remained the same, but Alexander Romanov and Brett Kulak replaced Erik Gustafsson and Jon Merrill. Carey Price remained in his blue paint as he faced off with Andrei Vasilevskiy once again.
All these changes were important for the Habs who found themselves shorthanded often thus marking the importance of Evans. Romanov scored such an important goal in his first game back, and Kulak played more minutes allowing a little more rest for Shea Weber and Ben Chiarot. In the end, the Habs needed some puck luck and overtime, but they overcame and forced a Game 5 with a 3-2 final score.
The game started by highlighting the presence of past greats Guy Lafleur, Yvan Cournoyer, and Patrick Roy. However, the first period can essentially be summed up to the Carey Price show. The Lightning absolutely hounded the slow Montreal back end and created enough to finish the period ahead in the shots department by a 12-5 score.
In the early part of the period, it was all Lightning until Joel Edmundson delivered a big hit that seemed to give the Canadiens the confidence to start skating. The Habs saw their usual ability to be opportunistic come alive on this night.
The only goal in the period came with 4:21 to play on an awesome pass by Nick Suzuki who was patient enough to find the third wave of the attack in Anderson on the backdoor. Anderson did well in one-timing the puck to get the Habs their first opening goal of the series.
The Lightning responded by Brayden Point punching Evans three times, but the official decided both were going off. Then Edmundson was assessed a retaliatory, but cheap, slashing minor. This meant a 4-on-3 for Tampa Bay, but Price stood tall and got some help from the post along the way. The period ended and both benches cleared onto the ice for a little scrum that was a sight to end a period in the Final.
The second period also started at 4-on-4 as both Edmundson and Patrick Maroon were sent off for unsportsmanlike for the get-together at the end of the first period. Surprisingly, the Habs got the better of the exchange as Suzuki was really great in that sequence. As the Lightning were slowly getting back to their rhythm, Point was once again guilty of a careless play as he was called for a high stick. The Habs first man advantage was not successful but got some good offensive zone time with the second unit before Shea Weber absolutely crunched Point coming out of the penalty box.
At the 9:43 mark, Tyler Johnson sold a dive into Price on a Corey Perry hook that the officials fell for so the Lightning were back to the power play but it was a penalty killing clinic by the Habs as Tampa barely got any offensive zone time.
This really seemed to give the Habs wings as they fully controlled the play until Armia got caught tripping Mathieu Joseph. This time the Lightning got chances as Hedman smashed two posts on the sequence and then smashed Point’s ankle on a third shot.
After the man advantage, and with 2:40 to play in the second period, a soft clearing attempt was picked off by Ryan McDonagh and it was the defender who made a back-handed pass to Barclay Goodrow who simply tapped it into the empty net to tie it up.
The first four minutes of the third period were all Tampa which concluded with a highlight-reel stop by Price on Nikita Kucherov with a cross-ice pad save. A gigantic scrum close to eight minutes into the period sent six players to the penalty box as all of Yanni Gourde, Goodrow, Blake Coleman, Jeff Petry, Chiarot, and Anderson were called.
8:48 into the period, the hockey gods smiled on a patient Romanov as he got the and skated the blue line before using the Lehkonen screen to put a great shot through the crowd and beat Vasilevskiy assisted by Evans for a second lead.
Suzuki really found another gear as he created another two or three scoring chances but as is often the case, many chances at one end means a goal at the other as Joseph and Maroon took advantage of a cheating Kulak for a mini 2-on-1 that Maroon buried with 6:15 to play to even the score once again.
The Habs upped the pressure after the goal, but as is often the case late in playoff games, the whistles were buried, and the Lightning got away with quite a few obvious penalties. On the other end, Weber was called for an obvious high stick for four minutes with only one minute to play in regulation.
The opening three minutes saw the Lightning come close on a few occasions as they tried to take advantage of their man advantage, but the Habs also came close as Danault found a streaking Suzuki that forced a great save by Vasilevskiy. Cooper then took a timeout to organize the final 30 seconds which was weird to me considering it was Weber in the box which meant Chiarot and Edmundson got to stay out.
The Habs killed the penalty and on the ensuing shift, Anderson used his wheels to bank the puck and get by Jan Rutta. Caufield poked just enough of the puck to keep it away from the other defender and Vasilevskiy. Anderson was all over the chance created by Caufield as he scored short side to force Game 5.
HabsWorld Habs Three Stars
First Star – Carey Price
If anyone was second-guessing Price heading into Game 5, Price quickly reminded everyone all first period why the Habs made a Stanley Cup Final appearance. He was dominant and gave Montreal a chance to find their legs and stop watching the Lightning skate circles around them. As per usual in this series, he didn’t get the run supported required, but he still managed to pull out a win and extend the series.
Stats: 32 saves, 34 shots, .941 save %, 1.88 GAA, 63:57 TOI
Second Star – Nick Suzuki
Anyone still doubting who the number one centre of this team is moving forward? I sure hope not. What’s crazy is that Montreal is finally getting their wish too! He has natural scoring ability, natural playmaking ability, and he back-checks his arse off and makes fantastic defensive zone plays. A true 200-foot player who will make other teams salivate for years to come.
Stats: 1 assist, -1, 2 shots, 1 hit, 18:01 TOI
Third Star – Josh Anderson
Weird that he scores all the big goals while still having two players be so dominant that he only gets the game’s third star. Anderson, much like an oversized Byron, goes quiet for long moments before being able to use his speed to take us out of our seat, and this was one of those nights for Anderson; what a game!
Stats: 2 goals, +1, 3 shots, 1 hit, 13:16 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Alexander Romanov
Many have been calling for his presence on the blueline. He played a decent game and scored a gigantic goal to make his coach look great on this somewhat controversial decision. He may have hit a bit too.
Stats: 1 goal, 1 shot, 1 hit, 12:16 T.O.I.