It has to be really hard to play the Tampa Bay Lightning. As if it wasn’t enough that the Bolts were one of the best rosters in the NHL, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is also one of the best at his position. The Montreal Canadiens found that out the hard way on Wednesday night, as they fell 3-1 and head back home trailing 2-0 in the series.
They say that you are never in trouble until you lose a game at home, but after seeing what the Habs have to contend with in this season, it is safe to say that they are in trouble before even setting foot on home ice. Tampa Bay is a modest road favorite in the -130 range at Bookmaker Sportsbook with a total of 5 for Game 3 on Friday night.
Tampa Bay Lightning
It was the offense in Game 1 and the goaltending in Game 2 that built a 2-0 series lead. That’s not to say that the Lightning have not played well defensively. They have. They blocked a ton of shots in Game 1 and kept Montreal out of the high-percentage scoring areas. They didn’t do nearly as many of those things in Game 2, but Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall.
Vasilevskiy made 42 saves on Wednesday night and the Lightning scored a backbreaking goal with mere seconds left in the second period to eventually come away with a 3-1 decision. The Habs outshot the Bolts 43-23 in the game and 34-18 at 5-v-5, but could only muster one light switch from the goal judge behind Vasilevskiy.
In essence, the better team got away with one. It was not a good performance from Tampa Bay. Montreal made some excellent adjustments and held the Lightning to just eight shots on goal at 5-v-5 over the first two periods of the game. Tampa Bay’s transition-based offense was nowhere to be found. The forecheck was not nearly as successful. The defensemen could not pinch as often.
And the Lightning still won. Good teams find ways to do that when they aren’t at their best, though Vasilevskiy deserves a lot of the credit. While the Lightning did spend a lot more time in their own zone, Montreal still only had seven high-danger scoring chances at 5-v-5 and failed to score at full strength.
Looking ahead to Game 3, Tampa Bay needs to be better. Pucks need to get deeper and the forecheck needs to win the day again. It would also help if the Lightning could generate some more high-danger chances of their own, as they only have 13 through two games. They need to get the offense going as well.
What more is there to say for Montreal? The Habs played about as well as they could have played through two periods and still trailed 2-1 on a goal with just two seconds left in the second period. That goal really took most of the wind out of Montreal’s sails and gave the Lightning an extra burst to finish the game off.
The Canadiens had a 14-4 edge in 5-v-5 shots and an 11-4 edge in 5-v-5 scoring chances in that second period, but the late goal was such a demoralizing moment for the team. It was fortunate to be able to go back into the locker room and get composed again, but the Lightning also had an extra pep in their steps coming back for the third period and buckled down a little bit more effectively.
While the 43 shots looks like an impressive number for Montreal, especially compared to the low output in Game 1, a lot of the shots were pucks just thrown on net harmessly. There weren’t a lot of high-quality scoring chances for Montreal. Even with that big second period push, Montreal had only one high-danger chance in the period at 5-v-5.
At least the penalty kill looked sharp again after giving up a streak of 30 straight kills in Game 1. The special teams for Montreal looked very good in the game, but they couldn’t get more than one past Vasilevskiy and Carey Price was the lesser of the two goaltenders again. It looks like he’ll have to be superhuman to get one of the games in this series.
Lightning vs. Canadiens Free Pick
Tampa Bay and Montreal have played a relatively even series at 5-v-5 overall. Montreal does have 10 more scoring chances, but Tampa Bay has four scoring-chance goals to just one for Montreal. Until somebody finds a way to put the puck in the net, Montreal has no chance. Tampa Bay is getting timely goals from seemingly everybody on the roster.
After what was a pretty mediocre showing from the Lightning in Game 2, you have to think they’ll bounce back with a much better effort in Game 3.
Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning