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Enthusiasm for Montreal’s first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1993 went away rather quickly as the Habs already find themselves on the brink of elimination following a trio of losses to Tampa Bay.

The Week That Was

June 28: Lightning 5, Canadiens 1 – There were definitely some nerves from Montreal early on, understandable given that for many it was their first appearance in the Final while most of the Lightning were in this situation less than a year ago.  So when Ben Chiarot’s shot hit two Tampa defenders and went in late in the second to cut Montreal’s deficit to one, it felt like they had done enough to hang around.  Then the wheels came off.  Nikita Kucherov scored twice in the third and Steven Stamkos snapped the penalty kill streak to put a cap on a tough opening game.

June 30: Lightning 3, Canadiens 1 – This time, Montreal came out much stronger and dominated long stretches of the game.  Unfortunately, beyond a Nick Suzuki squeaker that had no business going in, that was all they could get on Andrei Vasilevskiy and asking Carey Price to get a shutout against a team as deep as Tampa Bay isn’t a viable strategy.  The turning point in this one was Montreal finally getting burned for needless mistakes in the dying seconds of a period as a bad turnover from Phillip Danault and a misread from Chiarot sent the Lightning in two-on-one with Blake Coleman netting quite the buzzer-beater though it was one Price should have had.  A bad giveaway from Joel Edmundson late in the third that yielded Ondrej Palat’s tally sealed loss number two.

July 1: Lightning 6, Canadiens 3 – Price had a start to forget, allowing two soft goals in the first three and a half minutes of the first plus two more in the first three and a half minutes of the second.  That’s a deficit they simply weren’t able to come back from although, to their credit, they kept it interesting for a little while.  A brutal turnover from Erik Gustafsson (who had done relatively well in the offensive end before this) sprung Tyler Johnson for the back-breaking fifth goal to put Tampa Bay one win away from their second Stanley Cup in a row.



# Player GP G A +/- PIMS SOG ATOI
6 Shea Weber 3 0 2 +1 0 12 23:40
8 Ben Chiarot 3 1 1 -3 2 7 23:37
11 Brendan Gallagher 3 0 1 E 0 9 13:24
14 Nick Suzuki 3 2 0 -4 0 11 19:06
15 Jesperi Kotkaniemi 3 0 1 -2 2 5 13:19
17 Josh Anderson 3 0 0 +1 0 7 14:05
21 Eric Staal 3 0 0 -4 4 4 11:39
22 Cole Caufield 3 0 1 -4 0 5 15:47
24 Phillip Danault 3 1 0 +1 0 4 16:59
26 Jeff Petry 3 0 1 -6 2 10 22:54
28 Jon Merrill 3 0 0 -3 0 1 12:01
32 Erik Gustafsson 3 0 0 -2 0 4 12:06
40 Joel Armia 2 0 0 -4 2 3 13:31
41 Paul Byron 3 0 0 -1 4 1 13:49
44 Joel Edmundson 3 0 0 -2 2 3 22:25
62 Artturi Lehkonen 3 0 0 E 0 2 13:38
71 Jake Evans 1 0 0 E 0 1 11:55
73 Tyler Toffoli 3 0 0 -5 0 5 18:34
94 Corey Perry 3 1 0 -3 12 3 14:20


# Player Record GAA SV% SO
31 Carey Price 0-3-0 4.39 .835 0

Team Leaders:

Goals: Nick Suzuki (7)
Assists: Tyler Toffoli (9)
Points: Nick Suzuki (15)
+/-: Gustafsson/Weber (+3)
PIMS: Shea Weber (24)
Shots: Brendan Gallagher (21)

News And Notes

– The series got off to a strange start with Joel Armia entering COVID protocols.  While he was able to rejoin the team in Tampa Bay shortly before Game 1, Jake Evans suited up in his place instead; Armia has since returned and played in the last two games.

– Dominique Ducharme made his return behind the bench as expected for Game 3 as he has now cleared protocols following his positive test.  Luke Richardson – who did a solid job given the pressure in circumstances – went back to running the defence while Sean Burke went back to his usual spot in the press box to do his goalie charting.

– The Habs signed a pair of players with some NHL experience for Laval in goaltender Kevin Poulin and winger Danick Martel.  Poulin should take the place of Charlie Lindgren who is likely to leave as a free agent this summer while Martel should occupy the role held by Jordan Weal who has signed in the KHL.

Last Game’s Lines:

Toffoli – Suzuki – Caufield
Lehkonen – Danault – Gallagher
Byron – Kotkaniemi – Anderson
Armia – Staal – Perry

Chiarot – Weber
Edmundson – Petry
Gustafsson – Merrill

The Series Ahead

There is only one more guaranteed game as from here on out, it’s win or go home time for the Habs.  Montreal is 3-0 so far this postseason when facing elimination with all three of those contests coming back in the opening round versus Toronto.

Game 4: June 5 in Montreal
Game 5: July 7 in Tampa Bay*
Game 6: July 9 in Montreal*
Game 7: July 11 in Tampa Bay

*- if necessary

Final Thought

I’m not going to sit here and say the Habs are coming back to win this series – I did pick Tampa Bay in five after all – but I do believe the Habs won’t roll over easily on Monday either.  They were the better team in Game 2 and kept up with the Lightning for most of Game 3 aside from sleepwalking through the first four minutes of the first and second periods.  Carey Price should have a bounce-back game after a tough start to his series.  Eventually, one of their veteran scorers should manage to get a goal.  GM Marc Bergevin added a bunch of veterans for this type of situation as well.  There should be enough going for them to pull off a victory to avoid the sweep at the very least.  At this point, the old saying holds true – they don’t need to win four in a row but take it one game at a time.  I doubt it takes them through to next Sunday (I’d love to be proven wrong here) but I wouldn’t be surprised if both teams are hopping on a flight to Tampa Bay on Tuesday.