The Tampa Bay Lightning are now within one win of repeating as Stanley Cup Champions as they defeated the Montreal Canadiens 6-3 in Montreal, Friday night and lead the best of seven series 3-0.
The Bell Centre in Montreal was electric for the 3,500 fans that were allowed in the arena. While the Stanley Cup Final was played last season in Edmonton, Friday was the first time since 2011 a Canadian team hosted a Stanley Cup Final game that they played in.
The atmosphere soon fell muted as just under two minutes into the game, Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta had his seeing eye wrist shot beat Canadiens goaltender Carey Price from about 58 feet to send Tampa Bay off and running in Game 3.
“For us as defensemen, it’s always nice to get on the scoresheet, even if it’s not our main goal, it’s still nice and a good confidence boost.” Rutta said after the game.
If the Montreal faithful were sitting on pins and needles after Rutta’s early goal, the glass floor shattered below them just a minute and 35 seconds later when Victor Hedman, last season’s playoff MVP, let go an absolute rocket from the center point that Price stopped 75% off. But that wasn’t enough as the the puck trickled past the goal line to give Tampa the very early 2-0 lead.
Canadiens center Phillip Danault would make this a game about halfway through the first period as he found himself in a 2-on-1 with teammate Brendan Gallagher. Danault elected to shoot the puck and went post, and in on Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
What little hope Montreal had heading into the first intermission was quickly crushed at the start of period number two. In almost identical fashion to how the Lightning started the first period, Tampa’s forwards Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson found the back of the net a minute and 53 seconds apart to extend the lead to 4-1.
It has been a tough series for Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, who was a main catalyst for why Montreal is in the Finals in the first place. Price was unstoppable through the first three rounds of the playoffs, with his save percentage never dipping below 93.1%. But here in the Finals, Price is only stopping 83.5% of shot attempts.
On the flip side Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy has dominated the Montreal Canadiens. He has now won 11 straight matchups against Montreal dating back to January of 2018. The Russian netminder has allowed five goals on 97 shots and has created a enormous amount of frustration for Montreal scorers.
Game 4 will be Monday night in Montreal, a win for Tampa Bay will secure them their second straight Stanley Cup Championship. You can catch all the action of Game 4 on KTVE NBC 10 starting at 7 p.m. Monday.