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NHL Nick's Net

B’s and Habs reignite rivalry for first time since pandemic

It had been 641 days since the Boston Bruins last met the Montréal Canadiens in the regular season on Feb. 12, 2020. Less than a month after the Bruins beat the Habs, 4-1, that night at TD Garden, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that COVID-19 was a global pandemic.

The rest of the 2019-20 regular season was canceled after before the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs were held in a bubble about five months later. The entire 2020-21 season was shortened to 56 games and temporarily realigned to create an all-Canadian division to comply with COVID-19 public health accommodations across Canada.

The Bruins were eliminated in the 2021 Second Round by the New York Islanders and watched as Montréal went all the way to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final– only to lose in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Sunday night in Boston, the B’s met the Canadiens for the first time during the ongoing pandemic and came from behind to beat their longest, most storied rival, 5-2, on home ice.

17,850 fans in attendance packed TD Garden with proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test and masks required for entry.

The “Olé Olé Olé” chant was sung sarcastically in the third period as the Bruins pulled ahead and a Massachusetts native had a pair of goals in the victory.

A few things look different than in 2020.

Carey Price is on a personal leave of absence, while Tuukka Rask is currently unsigned and just started skating last week in an attempt to return from major hip surgery in the offseason.

Both goaltenders in Sunday night’s matchup made their Boston vs. Montréal debuts.

Jeremy Swayman (5-2-0, 2.16 goals-against average, .914 save percentage in seven games played) came out on top with the win for the B’s and made 27 saves on 29 shots faced in the effort.

Canadiens goaltender, Sam Montembeault (0-3-1, 3.78 goals-against average, .890 save percentage in five games played), turned aside 36 out of 40 shots against in the loss.

Boston improved to 8-5-0 (16 points) overall and remained in command of 5th place in the Atlantic Division, while Montréal dropped to 4-11-2 (10 points) on the season and stuck in 7th place in the Atlantic.

The Bruins were once again without the services of Trent Frederic (upper body) on Sunday, while head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a couple of minor changes to his lineup from Saturday afternoon’s, 5-2, victory in New Jersey to Sunday night’s matchup with Montréal.

Karson Kuhlman was placed on the right side of Erik Haula with Anton Blidh at left wing, while Oskar Steen entered the lineup on the “fourth” line with Tomáš Nosek at center and Jake DeBrusk at left wing.

Steen replaced Curtis Lazar, who joined Mike Reilly and Craig Smith on Boston’s short list of healthy scratches against the Canadiens.

Josh Anderson kicked the night off with a cross checking infraction against Brad Marchand at 3:20 of the first period, but the Bruins weren’t able to convert on the ensuing power play.

Moments later, after controlling possession in the attacking zone, Boston was caught with a defender pinching in as Connor Clifton raced to get back to his spot as Montréal started a rush the other way leading to a 2-on-1.

Instead of passing the puck, however, Joel Armia (1) ripped a shot over Swayman’s glove on the short side to give the Canadiens the night’s first lead, 1-0, at 8:09 of the first period.

Artturi Lehkonen (5) had the only assist on Armia’s first goal of the season as the Habs struck first.

The two teams had a little string of penalties as the first intermission drew near.

Late in the opening frame, Jake Evans tripped Marchand at 15:35, but Boston couldn’t capitalize on the ensuing skater advantage– nor could they do much on the power play at 18:23, when Brendan Gallagher went to the box for slashing Blidh, though that was more so due to the fact that the advantage was cut short when Marchand tripped Lehkonen at 18:59.

For the next 1:24, the two teams skated at 4-on-4, prior to yielding an abbreviated power play to Montréal that extended into the middle frame.

After one period, the Canadiens led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 12-11.

The B’s held the advantage in blocked shots (4-3), while the Habs led in takeaways (2-1) and hits (12-10).

Both teams had one giveaway each and split faceoff win percentage, 50-50, heading into the first intermission.

Montréal was 0/1 and Boston was 0/3 on the power play through 20 minutes.

Jakub Zboril snaked his way through the neutral zone while working a pass to lead Taylor Hall into the attacking zone on his 30th birthday almost midway through the second period.

Hall sent a shot on goal that rebounded off Montembeault and almost landed in the right spot for Nick Foligno to get his stick on the loose puck, but not before Charlie McAvoy (2) pinched in from the point, crashed the slot and sent the rubber biscuit past the Canadiens netminder on the low blocker side– tying the game, 1-1, in the process at 8:27 of the second period.

Hall (5) and Zboril (1) tallied the assists on McAvoy’s first goal of the night.

Late in the period, however, Zboril missed an open ice hit fresh from the bench off of a line change, leading to an overabundance of Montréal skaters getting into their attacking zone before Boston could catch up.

A shot from the Canadiens pinballed off of Swayman, might have hit a Bruin and slipped through to the back of the twine– giving Montréal a, 2-1, lead and Michael Pezzetta (1) his first career National Hockey League goal in the process.

Adam Brooks (1) and Anderson (4) had the assists on Pezzetta’s goal at 16:25 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Canadiens led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, despite Boston controlling shots on goal, 31-22, including a, 20-10, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bruins held the advantage in blocked shots (8-6) and giveaways (6-5), while Montréal led in takeaways (3-2), as well as faceoff win% (55-45).

Both teams had 23 hits each, while the Habs were 0/1 and the B’s were 0/3 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Jeff Petry was assessed a holding infraction at 1:25 of the third period and presented the Bruins with a power play as a result.

It didn’t take long for Boston to be successful on their fourth skater advantage of the night as Marchand setup McAvoy (3) for the wrist shot from the high slot over Montembeault’s glove through traffic– tying the game, 2-2, in the process.

Marchand (11) had the only assist on McAvoy’s power-play goal as the B’s tied things up, 2-2, on the scoreboard and McAvoy earned his first career two-goal game in the process at 2:14 of the third period.

A few minutes later– with a surge in momentum– Charlie Coyle sent a pass back to David Pastrnak for a shot that rebounded off of Montembeault prior to Petry getting a stick on it and attempting to clear it from the slot.

Petry, instead, inadvertently sent the puck off of Coyle’s (4) head and into Montréal’s own net, giving the Bruins their first lead of the night, 3-2, on Coyle’s unintentional individual effort at 5:58.

Right place, right time (depending on how you look at it).

Between McAvoy’s second goal and Coyle’s first of the night, Boston rallied for two goals in a span of 3:34.

It wasn’t that much longer before the Bruins scored again as Coyle (5) won a race off the boards into the attacking zone on a chip-in indirect pass from DeBrusk and crashed the net before roofing the rubber biscuit on the short side.

DeBrusk (1) and Steen (2) tallied the assists on Coyle’s second goal of the game and the Bruins pulled ahead, 4-2, at 9:05 of the third period.

Coyle’s pair of goals were scored almost three minutes apart from one another in a span of 3:07 before things settled down until late in the final frame.

With his team trailing by two goals, Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, pulled Montembeault for an extra attacker with about 2:30 remaining on the clock.

Things didn’t go as planned for Montréal, however.

An errant attempt to get the puck out of his own zone from Brandon Carlo hit a linesman before Pastrnak scooped it up, brought it into the attacking zone and sent it over to Hall (4) for the empty net goal at 18:02.

Pastrmak (9) and Carlo (1) were credited with the assists as Hall’s birthday goal sealed the deal on a, 5-2, win for Boston.

Canadiens defender, Chris Wideman, was given a misconduct after the goal at 18:02 and got an early ticket out of the rink to the dressing room as a result.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 5-2, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 41-29, including a, 10-7, advantage in the third period alone.

The B’s wrapped up Sunday night leading in blocked shots (10-7) and hits (31-29), while Montréal left TD Garden with the advantage in giveaways (7-6) and faceoff win% (55-45).

The Habs finished Sunday’s effort 0/1 on the power play, while Boston went 1/4 on the skater advantage.

Boston also improved to 2-2-0 (2-0-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 2-2-0 (2-0-0 at home) when trailing after the first period and 1-3-0 (1-0-0 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

The Canadiens dropped to 2-4-2 (1-3-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 3-3-2 (1-2-1 on the road) when leading after the first period and 3-1-0 (1-1-0 on the road) when leading after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins have five days off before hitting the road to face the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday (Nov. 20th).

The B’s return home next Sunday to host the Calgary Flames.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Habs hold off elimination in overtime victory at home

For the first time since 1993, the Montréal Canadiens won a game in the Stanley Cup Final as Josh Anderson scored the game-winning goal almost four minutes into overtime to lift the Habs over the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-2, on Monday night at Bell Centre.

As a result of the loss, the Lightning hold onto a 3-1 series lead with their next chance to clinch back-to-back Cups on Wednesday night in front of their home fans at Amalie Arena in Game 5.

Carey Price (13-8, 2.34 goals-against average, .922 save percentage in 21 games played) stopped 32 out of 34 shots faced in the win for Montréal.

Tampa goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy (15-7, 1.99 goals-against average, .935 save percentage in 22 games played), made 18 saves on 21 shots against in the loss.

Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, replaced Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson in his lineup with Jake Evans, Alex Romanov and Brett Kulak.

Ducharme put Romanov on the left side of Kulak on the third defensive pairing and switched up his top-nine forwards– promoting Tyler Toffoli to the left side of the first line with Phillip Danault at center and Brendan Gallagher on right wing, while Anderson was promoted to the second line with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield remaining in place.

Meanwhile, Evans took over at center on the third line with Paul Byron on his left wing and Artturi Lehkonen on his right side.

Alex Killorn entered Monday night as a “game-time decision” according to Tampa’s head coach, Jon Cooper, and took part in warmup for the Lightning– but did not take part in any line rushes, so Cooper made no changes to his lineup from Game 3.

Attendance at Bell Centre was once again limited by the Québec provincial government and local health administrations and officially read as 3,500 fans for Game 4 as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues around the globe.

Past the midpoint of the opening frame, Tampa led Montréal in shots on goal, 10-1.

Unfortunately for the Lightning’s potent offense and shutdown defense, the Canadiens’ second shot on net was a goal.

The Bolts botched an effort to move the puck out of their own zone, while the Habs sustained pressure leading to a give-and-go for Suzuki and Caufield, whereby Suzuki then rid himself of the puck on a pass to Anderson (4) through the low slot from the trapezoid for a one-timer goal and the, 1-0, lead.

Suzuki (9) and Caufield (7) tallied the assists on Anderson’s goal as the Canadiens struck first at 15:39 of the first period and their first at any point in the series– ending a span of 255:39 without trailing for the Lightning since Game 7 against the New York Islanders in the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals round.

Less than a minute later, Evans and Brayden Point were off to the penalty box together as Evans was assessed an interference infraction and Point was given two-minutes for roughing at 16:33 of the first period.

The two clubs almost got through a pair of minutes at 4-on-4 without any issue before Joel Edmundson caught Blake Coleman with a slash at 17:59, yielding a 4-on-3 advantage for Tampa for 34 seconds before the remainder of an abbreviated 5-on-4 advantage for the Lightning would commence.

While on the ensuing power play, Point rang the post as the Bolts tried to even things up, but failed to convert on the advantage.

At the horn, both benches converged at center ice as the players were about to go back to the dressing rooms for the first intermission, but first exchanged some pleasantries.

Pat Maroon and Edmundson both received unsportsmanlike minors at 20:00 of the first period, which resulted in 4-on-4 action to start the middle frame.

After one period, Montréal led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite Tampa holding a, 12-5, advantage in shots on goal.

The Habs led in blocked shots (5-3) and giveaways (7-2), while the Bolts held the advantage in takeaways (3-1), hits (15-13) and faceoff win percentage (79-21).

Tampa had the only skater advantage in the opening frame and went 0/1, while Montréal had yet to see time on the power play.

The Canadiens got their first chance on the skater advantage at 5:50 of the second period as Point caught Lehkonen with a high stick and cut a rut to the sin bin as a result.

The Habs failed to convert on the power play.

Moments later, Corey Perry cut a rut to the box for hooking Tyler Johnson at 9:43, but once again the Lightning couldn’t muster anything on the advantage.

Nor could the Bolts get anything going when Joel Armia tripped up Mathieu Joseph at 14:28 and presented Tampa with another power play as a result– despite Victor Hedman ringing the iron on a heavy shot.

Late in the period, Jeff Petry failed to clear the zone on a pass that was broken up by Ryan McDonagh.

The puck deflected off of McDonagh’s stick and sailed through the air to Coleman who worked it to McDonagh in the slot on a short pass as the Tampa defender pinched and dropped the rubber biscuit back to Barclay Goodrow (2) for the one-timer past Price while the Canadiens goaltender was out of position.

McDonagh (7) and Coleman (8) notched the assists as the Lightning tied it, 1-1, at 17:20 of the second period.

Entering the second intermission, the Bolts and Habs were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard despite Tampa leading in shots on net, 20-14, through 40 minutes of action.

Montréal, however, held the advantage in shots in the second period alone, 9-8, and led in giveaways (14-7), while the Lightning led in hits (30-28) after two periods.

Both teams had six blocked shots each, three takeaways each and split faceoff win%, 50-50, entering the final frame of regulation.

Tampa was 0/3 and Montréal was 0/1 on the power play heading into the third frame.

Almost midway into the final frame of regulation, Petry, Ben Chiarot, Anderson, Goodrow, Coleman and Yanni Gourde all received matching roughing minors for a scrum after the whistle at 7:42 of the third period.

The six skaters wouldn’t come out of the box for over six minutes as there weren’t many stoppages before their penalties expired.

About a minute after the six skaters went into the box, Romanov (1) wired a shot through traffic into the twine over Vasilevskiy’s blocker and just under the bar as Lehkonen skated by the Tampa netminder acting as a screen.

Evans (1) had the only assist on Romanov’s goal and the Habs took a, 2-1, lead at 8:48 of the third period, while Romanov became the youngest (21 years, 180 days) Canadiens defender in franchise history to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Final.

About five minutes later, Joseph led Maroon on a rush the other way from their own blue line into the attacking zone whereby Joseph setup Maroon (2) for a shot pass redirection goal to tie the game, 2-2, at 13:47.

Joseph (2) and Johnson (3) had the assists on Maroon’s goal.

Moments later, Nikita Kucherov hit the post– the third time of the night that Tampa registered a shot attempt off the iron– as the Bolts almost took the lead for the first time of the night.

Late in the period, off an attacking zone faceoff, Shea Weber caught Ondrej Palat with a stick to the face and drew some blood, yielding a four-minute double minor penalty at 18:59 of the third period.

Tampa’s advantage would spill over into the overtime period, but like the rest of the night, the Lightning couldn’t score on the skater advantage.

After regulation the Bolts and Habs were knotted up, 2-2, on the scoreboard despite Tampa holding the advantage in shots on goal, 30-19, including a, 10-5, advantage in the third period alone.

Montréal held the lead in blocked shots (17-15), takeaways (7-4), giveaways (19-13) and faceoff win% (55-46), while Tampa led in hits (36-34).

As there were no penalties called in overtime, the Lightning finished the night 0/5 on the power play, while the Canadiens went 0/1.

Tampa nearly allowed a shorthanded goal when Hedman blew a tire along the blue line and failed to keep the puck in the attacking zone while Danault and Suzuki were off to the races and generated a one-timer on Vasilevskiy that the Lightning goaltender turned aside.

As the Habs surged in momentum and the Bolts got off to a slow start in the extra frame, Cooper used his timeout after a stoppage with 17:33 remaining in overtime.

Shortly thereafter, Anderson beat Jan Rutta and led a rush the other way with Caufield before the two kept hacking away at the loose puck on a rebound until Anderson (5) slipped it past Vasilevskiy on the short side.

Caufield (8) had the only assist on the goal at 3:57.

Montréal took Game 5, 3-2, in overtime and cut Tampa’s series lead to 3-1 as a result.

Despite losing, the Lightning finished the night with more shots on goal– leading the Canadiens, 34-21, in that department, including a, 4-2, advantage in overtime alone.

The Habs finished Monday night’s effort leading in blocked shots (19-16), giveaways (20-13) and faceoff win% (52-48), while Tampa exited the building leading in hits (36-35).

The Bolts are 1-3 in their first attempts to close out a playoff series this postseason– only beating the Carolina Hurricanes on their first try in Game 5 of their Second Round matchup.

Tampa also had two losses in overtime in games when they had a chance to finish the series, including Game 6 on Long Island against the New York Islanders.

The Lightning are now 0-4 in overtime this postseason, while Montréal improved to 6-1 past regulation in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs– winning their first game in a Stanley Cup Final when facing elimination for the 12th time in franchise history and first since Game 7 against Chicago in the 1971 Stanley Cup Final.

Road teams are now 50-41-3 in a Stanley Cup Final game that required overtime after Monday night’s win for the home team Canadiens.

The most recent team to trail in the Final 3-0 to force a Game 5 was in 2014, when the New York Rangers forced the Los Angeles Kings to a Game 5 at Staples Center that the Kings ended up winning and taking home their second Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.

On Wednesday, the Lightning attempt to repeat Los Angeles’ success in a Game 5 on home ice as they’ll host Montréal at Amalie Arena.

Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBC, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning one win away from repeating as Stanley Cup champions

The Tampa Bay Lightning are one win away from sweeping the Montréal Canadiens– and winning their third Stanley Cup championship in franchise history in the process– after defeating the Canadiens, 6-3, at Bell Centre on Friday night in Game 3.

Friday night marked the first Stanley Cup Final game in Montréal since the Habs won it all in Game 5 of their series against the Los Angeles Kings on June 9, 1993.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (15-6, 1.94 goals-against average, .938 save percentage in 21 games played) made 32 saves on 35 shots against in the win for the Lightning.

Meanwhile, Canadiens goaltender, Carey Price (12-8, 2.36 goals-against average, .921 save percentage in 20 games played) stopped 24 out of 29 shots faced in the loss.

Jon Cooper made no changes to his lineup for the Lightning while Alex Killorn remained out of commission due to an undisclosed injury that he sustained while blocking a shot in Game 1.

Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, was back behind the bench for the Habs after testing positive for COVID-19 in the last playoff round against the Vegas Golden Knights and self-isolating.

Ducharme made no adjustments to his lineup, while Luke Richardson returned to his usual role as an assistant coach for Montréal after serving as their temporary leader for the last six games.

The Québec provincial government made 3,500 seats available for Bell Centre’s seating capacity for Game 3, though it looked like more fans found a way in somehow on the television broadcast.

Jan Rutta (2) kicked things off with a shot from the point that floated over Price’s shoulder on the blocker side into the twine– giving Tampa a, 1-0, lead at 1:52 of the first period in the process and becoming the first player in NHL history to score a goal (regular season or playoffs) in the month of July.

Ondrej Palat (7) and Victor Hedman (16) tallied the assists on Rutta’s goal.

About a minute later, Eric Staal sent the puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game infraction at 2:54, yielding the night’s first power play to the Lightning in the process.

It didn’t take the Bolts that long on the skater advantage to convert with a power-play goal from Hedman (2) as the Lightning worked the puck around the attacking zone and back to the defender wearing No. 77.

He sent a slap shot off of Price, under the glove and into the back of the net to give Tampa a, 2-0, lead at 3:27 of the first period, while Nikita Kucherov (24) and Anthony Cirelli (7) picked up the assists.

Hedman became the first player in league history to record at least one goal in all 12 calendar months, while Montréal used their timeout to gather their composure.

Moments later, Blake Coleman went down awkwardly after missing Joel Edmundson on a hit attempt in open ice, but got up under his own power after a whistle and continued to play unscathed for the rest of the night.

Shortly thereafter, Cole Caufield sniped a shot off of the left post behind Vasilevskiy– beating the Lightning goaltender on the lower right pad– but the puck came back out of the crease and away from the attacking zone.

Midway through the first period, Phillip Danault (1) held the puck as he entered the zone and sent a shot off of Vasilevskiy that bounced off the left post and right post before finding its way into the net.

Shea Weber (5) had the only assist on Danault’s goal at 11:16 as the Canadiens cut Tampa’s lead in half, 2-1.

Late in the period, Mikhail Sergachev caught Artturi Lehkonen away from the puck just far enough from being considered a net front presence to yield an interference infraction at 17:29.

The Habs were not able to muster anything on the ensuing power play– their first skater advantage of the night.

Through 20 minutes of action, the Lightning led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, despite the Canadiens holding a, 17-12, advantage in shots on goal.

Montréal also led in blocked shots (5-4), while Tampa led in giveaways (5-4), hits (21-19) and faceoff win percentage (52-48) entering the first intermission.

Neither team had recorded a takeaway through one period of play, while the Bolts were 1/1 and the Habs were 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Just like how they got off to a quick start in the first period, the Lightning got off to a fast start in the second period as the Bolts caught the Habs on a poor line change with the long change playing into the end result.

The Canadiens failed to get the puck deep while trying to change things up, which led to a 2-on-0 heading back the other way for Tampa as Palat setup Kucherov (8) for the backhand redirection goal to make it, 3-1, Lightning at 1:40 of the second period.

Palat (8) and Erik Cernak (9) tallied the assists on Kucherov’s goal.

Almost two minutes later, Mathieu Joseph generated a rebound off Price that bounced off of Joseph’s skate right to his teammate in Tyler Johnson as Johnson crashed the net.

Johnson (3) got a backhand shot on the puck and fluttered the rubber biscuit past Price while the Habs goaltender reacted in desperation.

Joseph (1) and David Savard (4) notched the assists on Johnson’s goal as the Lightning extended their lead to, 4-1, at 3:33 of the second period.

Moments later, Cernak sent a shot off the post in the same end that Caufield rang the iron in the opening frame.

Late in the period, Nick Suzuki (7) went end-to-end with speed and sent a shot under Vasilevskiy’s right leg pad from just inside the faceoff dot on a soft goal to cut Tampa’s lead to two-goals.

Jeff Petry (6) and Caufield (6) had the helpers on Suzuki’s goal as the Canadiens trailed the Lightning, 4-2, on the scoreboard at 18:04 of the second period.

Tampa entered the second intermission leading, 4-2, despite trailing in shots on goal to the Habs, 25-21. The Bolts held the advantage in shots on net in the second period alone, however, as they outshot Montréal, 9-8, in the middle frame.

The Canadiens led in giveaways (15-9), while Tampa dominated in everything else– leading in blocked shots (11-8), takeaways (1-0), hits (36-33) and faceoff win% (54-46) after 40 minutes of action on Friday.

As there were no penalties called in the second period, the Habs remained 0/1 on the power play, while the Bolts were 1/1 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame of regulation.

There were no penalties called in the final frame and the action picked up late in the period as Johnson (4) scored on another rebound while crashing the net– shoveling the puck into the twine on Price’s blocker side to make it, 5-2, for the Lightning at 15:19 of the third period.

Johnson’s second goal of the game was unassisted.

With 4:12 remaining in the game, Ducharme pulled Price for an extra attacker and the Habs went to work on cutting into Tampa’s lead.

Corey Perry (4) patiently carried the puck from the corner in the attacking zone to between the goal line and inside the faceoff dot, where he wired a shot over Vasilevskiy’s shoulder on the short side under the bar to bring the Canadiens to within two goals.

Brendan Gallagher (4) and Ben Chiarot (1) had the assists on Perry’s 45th career postseason goal as the Lightning led, 5-3, at 15:58 of the third period.

Once more, Price vacated the net for an extra attacker, but this time Tampa took full advantage of the open frame in the crease as Barclay Goodrow forced Caufield to turn the puck over off of Petry’s skate whereby Coleman (3) scooped up the loose puck and buried it for an empty net goal.

Goodrow (4) had the only assist on Coleman’s goal as the Bolts pulled ahead, 6-3, and sealed the deal on their Game 3 victory at 16:48 of the third period.

At the final horn, the Lightning had taken a 3-0 series lead with a, 6-3, victory despite trailing in shots on goal, 35-30, including a, 10-9, advantage in the third period alone for the Canadiens.

Montréal wrapped up Friday night’s action leading in giveaways (26-15), while Tampa held the advantage in blocked shots (13-11), hits (46-38) and faceoff win% (51-49).

Each team had one opportunity on the power play on Friday with the Lightning going 1/1 and the Canadiens finishing 0/1 on the skater advantage.

The Bolts became the fourth team in the Expansion Era (since 1967-68) to win the first three games in a Stanley Cup Final without trailing, joining the 2012 Los Angeles Kings and the 1977, as well as 1969 Canadiens in doing so.

Los Angeles went on to eliminate the New Jersey Devils in six games in 2012, to capture their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, while Montréal swept the Boston Bruins in the 1977 Stanley Cup Final and the St. Louis Blues in 1969.

Tampa can become the first team to sweep their opponent in the Final since the Detroit Red Wings swept the Washington Capitals in 1998.

The Lightning can win their third Stanley Cup ring in Game 4 on Monday night at Bell Centre in Montréal as the Canadiens look to avoid being eliminated on home ice.

Puck drop is expected to be a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBC for the action, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS for coverage.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning yield commanding 2-0 series lead in, 3-1, victory

Though they were outshot, 43-23, on the night, Blake Coleman’s eventual game-winning goal with only seconds to spare in the second period and Ondrej Palat’s insurance marker thereafter in the third period were enough to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a, 3-1, win over the Montréal Canadiens on Wednesday.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (14-6, 1.89 goals-against average, .939 save percentage in 20 games played) made 42 saves on 43 shots against in the Game 2 victory for the Lightning as the Bolts took a 2-0 series lead in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final in front of their home fans at Amalie Arena.

Canadiens goaltender, Carey Price (12-7, 2.23 goals-against average, .926 save percentage in 19 games played), stopped 20 out of 23 shots faced in the loss.

Joel Armia returned to the lineup for Montréal on the Canadiens’ fourth line alongside Eric Staal and Corey Perry after missing Game 1. Armia was cleared from COVID protocol on Monday and flew in a private jet to Tampa and was not quite ready to go ahead of the, 5-1, loss in Game 1.

That was the only change to the lineup for Luke Richardson as Richardson remained at the reigns of the Habs on Wednesday.

Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, is expected to return behind the bench on Friday in time for Game 3 at Bell Centre in Montréal, where Ducharme has been isolating since testing positive for COVID-19 last month.

At the other end of the rink, Alex Killorn missed Game 2 after blocking a shot in Game 1 and playing in limited ice time thereafter. Tyler Johnson was promoted to Tampa’s second line, while Jon Cooper inserted Mathieu Joseph on the Lightning’s fourth line as a result.

The Bolts hosted 18,600 fans in attendance on Wednesday, which was up from Monday night’s capacity limit of 16,300.

The Québec provincial government informed the Canadiens on Wednesday night that Bell Centre would be limited to 3,500 fans for Game 3 on Friday– despite the large crowd that is sure to gather outside the arena anyway during the game.

Habs defender, Jeff Petry, tripped Brayden Point and presented the Lightning with the night’s first power play at 5:29 of the first period.

Tampa wasn’t able to convert on the skater advantage, however.

The Bolts had another unsuccessful power play moments later when Paul Byron cut a rut to the penalty box for catching Steven Stamkos with a slash at 9:57.

Once more, however, Tampa couldn’t score on the advantage.

Byron later returned to the sin bin for slashing once more at 17:27 of the first period, only this time he took Lightning defender, Erik Cernak, with him as Cernak was assessed a retaliatory cross checking infraction.

Meanwhile, Ryan McDonagh had caught Phillip Danault with a high stick and drew blood, yielding a four-minute double minor penalty at the same time.

As a result, Montréal went on a 4-on-3 power play for a pair of minutes before the Canadiens had a run-of-the-mill 5-on-4 skater advantage for the remainder of McDonagh’s minor (which would spill into the middle frame).

Neither team found the back of the net prior to the first horn of the night to signal the start of the first intermission.

The score remained, 0-0, despite the Canadiens leading in shots on goal, 13-6.

The Habs led in blocked shots (8-1), hits (14-11) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), while the Bolts held the advantage in takeaways (5-1) and giveaways (3-1).

Both teams went 0/2 on the power play through one period on Wednesday.

Tampa was the first to get on the scoreboard as Johnson worked the puck back to Anthony Cirelli at the point whereby Cirelli (5) sent a floating shot from almost downtown through traffic off of Price’s blocker and under the Canadiens’ goaltender’s arm into the twine.

Johnson (2) and Jan Rutta (1) tallied the assists on Cirelli’s goal as the Lightning pulled ahead, 1-0, at 6:40 of the second period.

Cirelli’s goal was just the second shot on net for the Bolts in a span of almost 16 minutes.

Moments later, Mikhail Sergachev was penalized for interference at 10:03 and presented the Canadiens with another power play.

This time, Montréal made quick work of the skater advantage– in part, due to a couple lucky bounces.

Nick Suzuki (6) flipped a backhand shot towards the net as the puck bounced off the ice, caught McDonagh’s stick, changed direction and slipped through Vasilevskiy’s five-hole as Perry acted as a screen in front of the Tampa netminder.

Suzuki’s power-play goal was unassisted and tied the game, 1-1, at 10:36 of the second period.

Late in the period, Armia caught Coleman with a high stick at 16:38 and presented the Lightning with another power play.

Though Tampa wouldn’t score on the skater advantage, they would catch the Canadiens in the vulnerable minute after special teams action as the Habs turned the puck over in the neutral zone.

Barclay Goodrow chipped the rubber biscuit to himself around Ben Chiarot and entered the attacking zone on a rush with Coleman.

Goodrow then sent a backhand pass to Coleman (2) for the one-timed swing while diving to reach the puck– connecting on the mid-air rubber and scoring in the process to give the Lightning a, 2-1, lead at 19:58 of the second period.

It was the first goal for Coleman in 19 games as Goodrow (3) and McDonagh (6) picked up the assists and the Bolts entered the second intermission with the lead on the scoreboard.

Through 40 minutes, Tampa led, 2-1, despite trailing in shots on goal, 29-13. Montréal held a, 16-7, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

The Habs also led in blocked shots (9-6) and faceoff win% (54-46), while the Lightning led in takeaways (9-4), giveaways (4-1) and hits (28-24).

The Canadiens were 1/3 on the power play and the Bolts were 0/3 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

Joel Edmundson sent a reverse pass off the boards behind his own net intended for Petry, but Palat (5) intercepted the puck and banked it off of Price into the back of the net as the Canadiens defenders miscommunication proved costly at 15:42 of the third period.

Palat’s unassisted goal gave the Lightning a, 3-1, lead and secured the victory as such.

Moments later, Montréal pulled Price for an extra skater with about two minutes remaining in the game and used their timeout after a stoppage with 46.7 seconds to go, but it was to no avail.

At the final horn, Tampa had won, 3-1, and taken a 2-0 series lead as a result.

The two teams exchanged further pleasantries, yielding a cross checking minor and a misconduct for Cirelli at 20:00 of the third period, as well as a roughing minor and a misconduct for Perry at the same time.

Montréal finished the night leading in shots on goal, 43-23, including a, 14-10, advantage in the third period alone.

The Habs exited the building leading in faceoff win% (53-47), while the Bolts wrapped up Wednesday night leading in blocked shots (14-10), giveaways (6-2) and hits (40-36).

Despite each team receiving a couple infractions to finish off the night, the Canadiens finished 1/3 and the Lightning went 0/3 on the power play in Game 2.

For the first time in four Stanley Cup Final appearances, Tampa had a 2-0 series lead and didn’t split the series 1-1 through Games 1 and 2.

Another interesting stat from the night relates to the fact that the Habs fell to 10-4 this postseason when not giving up a goal in the first period. They dominated in shots on goal and have been the best at comebacks this postseason and yet…

Just not enough on Wednesday, apparently.

The series shifts to Bell Centre in Montréal on Friday night where the Lightning look to go up 3-0 in the series, while the Canadiens look to win Game 3 and cut Tampa’s series lead to 2-1.

Puck drop is set for 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBC, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning rout Canadiens in Game 1 victory at home

Nikita Kucherov scored a pair of goals as the Tampa Bay Lightning cruised to a, 5-1, victory over the Montréal Canadiens Monday night at Amalie Arena in Game 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (13-6, 1.94 goals-against average, .936 save percentage in 19 games) made 18 saves on 19 shots against in the win as the Lightning jumped out to a 1-0 series lead in the Final.

Habs netminder, Carey Price (12-6, 2.18 goals-against average, .928 save percentage in 18 games played), stopped 22 out of 27 shots faced in the loss.

Jake Evans returned to the lineup for the Canadiens for the first time since sustaining a concussion on a charge from Mark Scheifele in Game 1 of Montréal’s Second Round series against the Winnipeg Jets.

Evans missed the last nine games for the Habs.

Meanwhile, Joel Armia was cleared from COVID protocol on Monday, flew in a private jet to Tampa and participated in warmup, but was not ready to go as a game-time decision.

Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, will return to his regular role behind the bench in Montréal for Game 3, since testing positive for COVID-19 on June 18th and self-isolating.

In accordance with Canadian regulations, Ducharme will did not travel to the United States for Games 1 and 2 in Tampa, so he won’t have to quarantine for another 14 days when the series shifts to Montréal for Games 3 and 4.

Luke Richardson remains in command for the Habs until Bell Centre hosts its first Stanley Cup Final game.

16,300 fans filled Amalie Arena on Monday night as Tampa continues to loosen indoor COVID-19 restrictions in attendance in accordance with the NHL’s protocols. It was the largest crowd for a Lightning game since last season.

Bolts head coach, Jon Cooper, rolled out Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Kucherov on his first line, while completing his top-six forward group with Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli and Steven Stamkos on the second line.

Barclay Goodrow, Yanni Gourde and Blake Coleman comprised Tampa’s third line, while Pat Maroon, Tyler Johnson and Ross Colton carried the fourth line.

On defense, Cooper paired Victor Hedman with Jan Rutta as he’s done all postseason, while Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak served as his second pairing and Mikhail Sergachev was partnered with David Savard on the third defensive pair.

Richardson countered with Artturi Lehkonen, Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher on his first line, while Tyler Toffoli, Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield rounded out Montréal’s top-six forward group.

Paul Byron, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Josh Anderson skated together on the third line, while Evans, Eric Staal and Corey Perry slotted in on the fourth line.

On defense, Ben Chiarot suited up alongside Shea Weber, Joel Edmundson was paired with Jeff Petry and Erik Gustafsson skated with Jon Merrill on the third defensive pair for the Habs.

Cernak (1) opened the series’ scoring with a shot pass redirection goal over Price’s glove to give the Lightning a, 1-0, lead at 6:19 of the first period.

Palat (6) and Point (7) tallied the assists on Cernak’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal in his 46th career postseason game.

Late in the period, Goodrow cross checked Gallagher and presented the Canadiens with the first power play of the series at 15:21 of the first period.

Montréal didn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however, as the Lightning remained in command on the scoreboard.

Tampa got a power play at 19:14 after Chiarot roughed up Kucherov, but the Bolts couldn’t muster anything on the power play despite the split ends of the advantage over the remaining time in the first period and a little more than the opening minute of the middle frame.

After one period, the Lightning led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 7-5.

Tampa also held the advantage in takeaways (3-2), while Montréal led in giveaways (3-1), hits (26-19) and faceoff win percentage (56-44).

Both teams managed to have three blocked shots each and were 0/1 on the power play heading into the first intermission.

Chiarot sent a shot attempt at the goal frame that deflected off of something and caught the iron to the right of Vasilevskiy’s leg pad, but the Bolts remained in command uninterrupted.

Moments later, Gallagher turned the puck over in Montréal’s attacking zone, leading to a rush for the Lightning heading back the other way, whereby Goodrow sent a shot that was blocked before Coleman pounced on the loose puck and threw a shot towards the net.

Coleman’s shot went through Merrill and caught a piece of Gourde (6) as he stood in front of the crease acting as a screen before the rubber biscuit had eyes and made its way through Price’s five-hole to give Tampa a, 2-0, lead.

Coleman (7) and Goodrow (2) notched the assists on the goal as the Bolts took a two-goal lead at 5:47 of the second period.

Late in the middle frame, Chiarot played a little pinball after Tampa turned it over and the Habs worked the puck around the attacking zone.

Chiarot (1) unloaded on a slap shot that deflected off of Cirelli, then McDonagh and slipped behind Vasilevskiy to cut Tampa’s lead in half, 2-1, on the scoreboard at 17:40.

Kotkaniemi (3) and Weber (4) were credited with the helpers on Chiarot’s first goal of the 2021 postseason for the Canadiens.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Lightning led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 19-14, in shots on goal, including a, 12-9, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

Tampa also held the advantage in blocked shots (8-5), takeaways (7-2), giveaways (7-3) and faceoff win% (51-49), while Montréal led in hits (44-41).

As there were no penalties called in the second period, both teams remained 0/1 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Kucherov (6) threw the puck into the slot early in the final frame and Chiarot smacked it out of the air with his glove, but somehow the puck managed to float over Price’s glove and under the bar to give the Lightning a, 3-1, lead at 2:00 of the third period.

Sergachev (3) had the only assist on Kucherov’s first goal of the night.

Minutes later, Staal and Cernak exchanged pleasantries after a stoppage and received roughing minors at 6:30, resulting in a pair of minutes of 4-on-4 action.

Midway through the third period, Kucherov (7) received a pass from Point on an attacking zone faceoff win and sent a laser of a shot past Price high on the glove side to extend Tampa’s lead to three-goals.

Point (8) had the only assist on Kucherov’s second goal of the game as the Bolts made it, 4-1, at 11:25 of the third period.

About a couple minutes later, Coleman took off Gallagher’s helmet after Price froze the puck in Montréal’s own zone and slammed Gallagher into the ice face first, resulting in a bit of a bloody gash on Gallagher’s forehead and yielding a power play to the Canadiens as a result.

Coleman cut a rut to the box for roughing at 13:42, but the Habs weren’t able to score on the ensuing skater advantage.

Shortly after killing off Coleman’s minor infraction, the Bolts went on the power play as Kotkaniemi retaliated with a high stick on Cernak at 15:51.

Edmundson joined Kotkaniemi in the box late in the resulting power play for roughing Gourde at 17:20, yielding a 5-on-3 advantage to the Lightning as a result, whereby Cooper sent out five forwards to make the Habs pay on the scoreboard.

About 90 seconds later, Tampa struck on the power play when Stamkos (8) blasted a one-timer from his usual spot in the faceoff dot to beat Price on the short side.

Kucherov (23) and Point (9) tallied the assists on Stamkos’ power-play goal and the Lightning extended their lead, 5-1, at 18:50 of the third period.

At the final horn, Tampa had taken a 1-0 series lead with a, 5-1, victory over Montréal in Game 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

The Bolts finished Monday night’s effort leading in shots on goal, 27-19, including an, 8-5, advantage in the third period alone.

The Lightning also wrapped up Game 1 leading in blocked shots (15-5) and giveaways (9-3), while the Canadiens finished the night leading in hits (58-57).

Faceoff win% was split evenly, 50-50, while the Habs went 0/2 and the Bolts went 1/3 on the power play.

Tampa has a chance to take a 2-0 series lead and Montréal’s got a chance to even the series 1-1 on Wednesday night in Game 2 from Amalie Arena.

Puck drop is set for a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for coverage, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Tampa repeats in preview of 2021 Stanley Cup Final

For 29 (soon to be 30) franchises, the calendar’s already flipped from 2020-21 to 2021-22, but for two teams remaining in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs there’s still one goal– winning the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

At one end of the rink, the Tampa Bay Lightning are looking to become the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups since the Pittsburgh Penguins did it in 2016 and 2017.

Lightning forward, Pat Maroon, is seeking to become the first player in the Expansion Era (since 1967) to win three consecutive Cup rings in as many seasons among two different franchises, having won his first with the St. Louis Blues in 2019, and his second last year with Tampa.

Maroon can also be the first player to win the Cup in three consecutive seasons in general since a bunch of players on the New York Islanders did so during the Isles’ dynasty from 1980-83.

At the other end of the rink, the Montréal Canadiens are seeking to win their first Stanley Cup– and 25th in franchise history– since 1993, which also happens to be the last time a Canadian club won the Cup.

The Habs were the last team to clinch a spot in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and yet, here they are.

Corey Perry lost to the Lightning as a member of the Dallas Stars in six games in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final and has made it back to the Final for the third time in his career, while Eric Staal is back in Cup contention for the first time since 2006, when he won it all as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Perry won his first Stanley Cup ring with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

Meanwhile, Carey Price is making his Stanley Cup Final debut as the greatest goaltender in Canadiens history since some guy named Patrick Roy won it all three years before demanding a trade out of Montréal.

It all comes down to this– four more wins and one team will be crowned as this year’s Stanley Cup champion.

For the first time since 2009, all games in the Stanley Cup Final will be played in the Eastern Time Zone. It’ll also be the first time that Stanley Cup Final games are held in July, much like how last year marked the first time the Final was held in September due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s also the first Stanley Cup Final since 1980, to feature teams that are normally in the same conference.

As a result of the ongoing pandemic, the league temporarily realigned to four divisions and no conferences for a 56-game regular season schedule, featuring the top-four teams in each division qualifying for the postseason and no international travel between the United States and Canada until the Semifinals round– which was held in place of the usual Conference Finals round.

Monday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, the 2021 Stanley Cup Final gets underway. Here’s a quick review and more on how each team got here since the dawn of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

(3) Tampa Bay Lightning (40-14-2, 82 points) vs (4) Montréal Canadiens (24-21-11, 59 points)

Tampa: 56 games played, .670 points percentage, 29 regulation wins.

Montréal: 56 games played, .527 points percentage, 20 regulation wins.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning are looking to go back-to-back as they defeated the Florida Panthers in six games (4-2) in the First Round, eliminated the Carolina Hurricanes in five games (4-1) in the Second Round and finished off the New York Islanders in seven games (4-3) in the Semifinals before reaching their second-straight appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.

Led by Brayden Point in regular season scoring with 23-35–48 totals in 56 games, teammates Ondrej Palat (15-31-46 totals in 55 games) and Victor Hedman (9-36–45 totals in 54 games) rounded out the top-three in Bolts scoring for 2020-21, while Nikita Kucherov spent the entire regular season on long term injured reserve.

It’s a legal loophole in the salary cap, whether it was exploited or not, Kucherov’s hip needed the time off while the Lightning stockpiled in unlimited playoff salary as the cap ceiling gets turned off when the postseason starts.

Kucherov’s play hasn’t skipped a beat as he leads Tampa with 27 points (five goals, 22 assists) in 18 games thus far in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Point trails Kucherov with 20 points (14 goals, six assists) in 18 games, followed by Alex Killorn (8-9–17 totals in 18 games), Steven Stamkos (7-10–17 totals in 18 games) and Hedman (1-15–16 totals in 18 games) to round out the top-five in team postseason scoring.

The Lightning can strike more than twice per game– in fact, they’re scoring about 3.22 goals for per game thus far, trailing only the eliminated Colorado Avalanche (3.80) for the most goals for per game this postseason.

Tampa trails the Toronto Maple Leafs– who were ousted in the First Round by Montréal in seven games– for the fewest goals against per game. The Bolts have allowed 2.06 goals against per game in 18 contests, while the Leafs had 2.00 in their seven-game postseason stretch.

In net, Andrei Vasilevskiy served as the Lightning’s starting goaltender in both the regular season and playoffs– amassing a 31-10-1 record in 42 games played (42 starts), as well as a 2.21 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and five shutouts in that span.

A Vezina Trophy Finalist for 2020-21, Vasilevskiy has previously won the award for his 2018-19 season performance.

Curtis McElhinney served as Tampa’s primary backup this season and went 4-6-2 in 12 games (12 starts) with a 3.09 goals-against average, an .875 save percentage and one shutout in that span.

Meanwhile, Christopher Gibson played in two games (two starts) for the Bolts in the regular season and went 1-1-0 with a 2.65 goals-against average and an .875 save percentage.

Entering the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, Vasilevskiy is 12-6 in 18 games (18 starts), has four shutouts and has a 1.99 goals-against average, as well as a .936 save percentage so far.

He earned his first career postseason shutout in Tampa’s, 2-0, victory over the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final– clinching the franchise’s second Stanley Cup ring in the process– and has since become the first goaltender in NHL history to record three shutouts in three series clinching games in one postseason in the Lightning’s ongoing quest for a 2021 Stanley Cup ring.

The Montréal Canadiens overcame a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games (4-3) in the First Round, then swept the Winnipeg Jets in four games (4-0) in the Second Round before upsetting the Vegas Golden Knights in six games (4-2) in the Semifinals to make their 37th appearance in the Stanley Cup Final (including their days before the NHL’s existence).

Tyler Toffoli led the way for the Habs in the regular season in scoring with 28 goals and 16 assists (44 points) in 52 games, while Jeff Petry (12-30–42 totals in 55 games) and Nick Suzuki (15-26–41 totals in 56 games) rounded out the top-three in points on the roster for 2020-21.

Leading up to the trade deadline, Montréal added some depth and veteran experience that’s paid off with some clutch goals in their 2021 postseason run thus far.

Toffoli leads the Canadiens in playoff scoring with 5-9–14 totals in 17 games thus far, while Suzuki (5-8–13 totals in 17 games), Cole Caufield (4-5–9 totals in 15 games), Perry (3-6–9 totals in 17 games), Joel Armia (5-3–8 totals in 17 games) and Staal (2-6–8 totals in 16 games) round out the top-five in points on Montréal’s playoff roster.

In the crease, Jake Allen actually had more playing time than Carey Price in the regular season due to Price having battled a couple of injuries throughout the season.

Allen went 11-12-5 in 29 games (27 starts), amassing a 2.68 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage in the process as the expected backup for the Canadiens, while Price produced a 12-7-5 record in 25 games (25 starts), as well as one shutout, a 2.64 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage in the regular season.

Cayden Primeau appeared in four games (four starts) for the Habs and went 1-2-1 in that span, recording a 4.16 goals-against average and an .849 save percentage in the process.

Since the start of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Price has not come out of Montréal’s crease to be replaced by another goaltender and has been lights out for the Canadiens in their run to the Final.

Price has a 12-5 record in 17 games (17 starts) thus far and has recorded one shutout, as well as a 2.02 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage in that span.


The Canadiens have had no problem upsetting teams thus far in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and– as long as they survive the first 10 minutes of each game and are able to get a lead– have been able to steal pivotal games and suck the life out of their opponents.

The Lightning have thundered their way back to the Final after winning it all last year and are capable of completely dominating games on the scoreboard and stifling the other team’s offensive production– limiting shots on goal and shot attempts in the process.

Due to the ongoing global pandemic, Monday night will be the first time these two teams have seen each other in the league’s 2020-21 calendar year.

It’ll also be the 64th unique Stanley Cup Final in league history.

Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, is in search of solidifying his place as the greatest at his job behind the bench in Tampa’s history, while Dominique Ducharme is trying to nail down the title as Montréal’s next official head coach– despite the fact that he won’t be back until Game 3 after testing positive for COVID-19 during the last series against Vegas.

Luke Richardson’s waited things out in the American Hockey League for several years and already served well as an assistant coach for the Canadiens, but continues to make a well-rounded argument for staking a claim to the Habs’ coaching job on his own.

Montréal won’t only be without Ducharme for the start of the series, however, as Armia also tested positive ahead of Game 1 for the Final and may not be available while the Canadiens are in Tampa.

UPDATE: Armia cleared COVID protocol on Monday and was en route to Tampa via a private jet and will be a game time decision for Game 1.

Not that it’s a big advantage for the Lightning, since the two teams are of great contrast in playing style thus far.

Tampa can out skate, out hit and out score their opponent.

Montréal can defend, latch on and if they’re able to withhold the sustained pressure from the Bolts (and not take any penalties) they’ll get the necessary goaltending out of Price.

That said, Vasilevskiy is equally, if not more so, locked in right now.

Both goaltenders have won the Vezina before and will be the first pair of Vezina Trophy winners to square off in the Final since the days of Dominik Hasek and Ed Belfour in, what, 1999?

The Canadiens have been on a Cinderella run, but they’re running into the Lightning– the Lightning— of all teams now.

They might have stood a chance against the Islanders, but Tampa is on another level.

That said, my recent predictions have been the wrong team, but the right number of games, so it looks like the Habs would have to be taking it all right now in five games.

But the Bolts are just too good. It’s their time to shine– as it has been for the last season already. They might not be dynasty material, but they’re pretty close to it and going back-to-back is within reach.

If they lose, it’ll be their own fault.

Tampa has something else on their side and it’s the fact that their Semifinals round lasted one game longer against New York than Montréal’s six-game series against the Golden Knights.

In recent years, the team that’s played more hockey in the round leading up to the Final has won the Final more often than not.

Just going back to 2015, both Chicago and Tampa won their Conference Finals rounds in seven games (Chicago won the Cup). In 2016, Pittsburgh advance in seven, while the San Jose Sharks won in six– the Penguins went on to win the Cup.

In 2017, it was more of the same– the Pens in seven, the Nashville Predators won in six games, but Pittsburgh won the Cup.

In 2018, the Golden Knights beat the Jets in five games, while the Washington Capitals defeated the Lightning in seven games before going on to win the Cup.

In 2019, the St. Louis Blues advanced in six games, while the Boston Bruins swept the Hurricanes. The Blues went on to win the Cup.

And in 2020, the Stars won in five games, but the Bolts advanced in six games and went on to beat Dallas in the Final.

It’s just science.

Besides, the Lightning are 2-1 in all time playoff series’ against the Canadiens, sweeping the Habs in the 2004 Eastern Conference Semifinal, losing to Montréal in four games in the 2014 First Round and beating Montréal in six games in the 2015 Second Round.

Tampa is repeating as your Stanley Cup champion in 2020 and 2021, and this time they’ll do it in five games.

Schedule:

6/28- Game 1 MTL @ TBL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/30- Game 2 MTL @ TBL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

7/2- Game 3 TBL @ MTL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

7/5- Game 4 TBL @ MTL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

7/7- Game 5 MTL @ TBL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

7/9- Game 6 TBL @ MTL 8 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

7/11- Game 7 MTL @ TBL 7 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS*

*If necessary

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Canadiens advance to first Stanley Cup Final in 28 years

For the first time since the last time they won the Stanley Cup in 1993, the Montréal Canadiens are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final after defeating the Vegas Golden Knights, 3-2, in overtime on home ice in Game 6 at Bell Centre on Thursday night.

With the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl secured, the Canadiens have now won every trophy in National Hockey League history and join the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks and New York Islanders as the only teams to have won both the Campbell Bowl and Prince of Wales Trophy in franchise history.

Artturi Lehkonen scored the biggest goal of his short five-year NHL career thus far a little more than 90 seconds into overtime as the Canadiens won the series 4-2 to advance to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Habs netminder, Carey Price (12-5, 2.02 goals-against average, .934 save percentage in 17 games played), stopped 37 out of 39 shots faced in the win.

Robin Lehner (1-2, 3.63 goals-against average, .887 save percentage in three games played) made 29 saves on 32 shots against in the loss.

Golden Knights head coach, Peter DeBoer, fell to 12-7 when facing elimination all time in his career behind the bench of an NHL team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Meanwhile, Montréal improved to 11-2 when scoring first this postseason and 11-0 when scoring at least two goals in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

They’re also the first Canadian NHL team in the Stanley Cup Final since the Vancouver Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in seven games (4-3) in 2011.

Jake Evans remained out of the lineup for Montréal, while DeBoer swapped Nick Holden on his defense with Nic Hague and gave Lehner the start over Marc-Andre Fleury on Thursday.

Luke Richardson led the Canadiens behind the bench for the fourth time in the series while Dominique Ducharme remains in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 prior to Game 3.

Vegas General Manager, Kelly McCrimmon, remains out of commission in isolation as well, having tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of Game 4.

Nicolas Roy caught Jon Merrill with a high stick and presented the Habs with the first power play of the night at 1:56 of the first period.

Montréal was unsuccessful on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

It wouldn’t take the Canadiens all night before they found a way to convert on the power play as Alex Pietrangelo presented the Habs with their second advantage of the night as a result of a roughing infraction at 12:36.

This time, Montréal used up about 90 seconds of power play time before Alec Martinez went to clear the puck out of the zone but failed as a result of his stick shattering and an errant puck landing on Shea Weber’s blade instead.

Weber (1) unloaded on an unassisted slap shot past Lehner’s blocker side while Jesperi Kotkaniemi screened the Vegas goaltender to give the Canadiens a, 1-0, lead on a power-play goal at 14:06 of the first period.

Less than a minute later, though, the Golden Knights responded and tied things up, 1-1, thanks to a shot pass from Shea Theodore that Reilly Smith (3) redirected behind Price on the low blocker side.

Theodore (9) and William Karlsson (11) tallied the assists on Smith’s goal at 14:54.

Entering the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, despite the Golden Knights leading in shots on goal, 10-8.

Vegas also held the advantage in blocked shots (6-5), giveaways (11-5) and faceoff win percentage (52-48), while Montréal led in takeaways (1-0) and hits (10-7).

The Canadiens were 1/2 on the power play, while the Golden Knights had yet to see time on the skater advantage after one period on Thursday.

Tyler Toffoli hooked Smith early in the middle frame and cut a rut to the box at 3:15 of the second period– presenting Vegas with their first power play of the night as a result.

The Golden Knights couldn’t convert on the ensuing advantage, however, and would go back on the penalty kill shortly after Montréal killed off Toffoli’s minor.

Vegas had too many skaters on the ice and sent Keegan Kolesar to serve the bench infraction at 5:42 of the second period.

The Canadiens failed to score on the resulting power play.

Moments later, Jeff Petry and Joel Edmundson worked to get the puck out of their own zone as Edmundson fed Cole Caufield with a lead pass through the neutral zone that Caufield deflected over Brayden McNabb’s stick while breaking into the attacking zone.

Caufield (4) drove to the net and elevated a shot high on Lehner’s glove side to put the Habs up, 2-1, midway through the second period.

Edmundson (6) and Petry (5) notched the assists on Caufield’s goal at 9:36.

Eric Staal hooked Kolesar at 11:04 of the second period and presented Vegas with their second and final power play of the evening, but the Golden Knights couldn’t muster anything on the skater advantage as the Canadiens went on to kill off their 30th consecutive infraction this postseason– extending their ongoing franchise record as a result.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Habs led, 2-1, on the scoreboard despite trailing Vegas, 22-21, in shots on goal.

Montréal actually held the advantage in shots on net in the second period alone, 13-12, and led in blocked shots (11-7), takeaways (8-2) and hits (20-19) heading into the dressing room for the second intermission.

Vegas led in giveaways (17-13) and faceoff win% (56-44) after two periods.

As there were no penalties called in the final frame of regulation, as well as in the extra frame, the Habs finished the night 1/3 on the power play, while the Golden Knights went 0/2.

Pietrangelo wired a shot on net that rebounded in and out of Price’s glove before Martinez (4) did what he does best in the postseason– score clutch goals– this time off of Price and through the five-hole to tie the game, 2-2, at 1:08 of the third period.

Pietrangelo (8) and Karlsson (12) were credited with the helpers on Martinez’ goal as both teams continued to swap chances throughout the third period.

Vegas couldn’t get anything going with their surge in momentum as Smith continued to be a prominent figure on the ice among their top-six forwards as Phillip Danault and his Canadiens teammates continued to shutdown Golden Knights captain, Mark Stone, in every way imaginable.

Stone expressed remorse to reporters after the game for failing to record a single point in the series and had 5-3–8 totals in 19 games this postseason for Vegas– down from 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 20 games last postseason for the Golden Knights.

The horn sounded to indicate the end of the third period and the necessity for overtime as the two teams remained tied, 2-2, after 60 minutes.

Vegas led in shots on goal, 37-31, and held a, 15-10, advantage in the third period alone.

The Golden Knights continued to lead in giveaways (25-19), hits (31-28) and faceoff win% (52-48), while the Canadiens led in blocked shots (13-12) and takeaways (11-5).

For the third time in the series, Vegas and Montréal were heading to overtime.

Though the Golden Knights got two quick shots on the board to start the extra frame, it didn’t take long before the Canadiens emerged victorious as they won a battle in their own end before sprinting down the ice, whereby Danault released a pass to Lehkonen (3) for the one-timer goal on Lehner’s short side that eliminated Vegas and sent Montréal to the Stanley Cup Final.

Danault (3) and Brendan Gallagher (3)– two of the Habs’ longest tenured players not named Price– had the assists on Lehkonen’s game-winner at 1:39 of the overtime period as the Canadiens took home a, 3-2, victory.

Vegas exited Bell Centre leading in the final shots on goal total, 39-32, including a, 2-1, advantage in overtime alone, as well as the lead in giveaways (25-21), hits (31-29) and faceoff win% (53-47).

Meanwhile, Montréal delighted their home crowd with the win, pictures with the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl and the final advantage in blocked shots (14-13) on the night.

Speaking of the trophy that’s normally been presented to the winner of the Western Conference Final (or its Campbell Conference Finals equivalent from 1982-93), with the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl now belonging to the Canadiens for the 2021 postseason, Montréal has won every trophy in league history.

As a result of the Game 6 win in overtime, the Habs improved to 5-1 past regulation this postseason, while the Golden Knights finished 2-4.

The Canadiens are 1-2 in all time Stanley Cup Playoff series’ against Tampa and 3-1 in all time postseason series’ against New York.

Montréal will face the winner of the Islanders vs. Lightning series on Monday night (June 28th) on the road in Game 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

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Habs steal Game 3 victory due to Fleury’s error

Josh Anderson scored a pair of goals to tie, then win Game 3 in overtime, 3-2, for the Montréal Canadiens over the Vegas Golden Knights in front of 3,500 fans at Bell Centre in Montréal, Québec on Friday night as the Habs took a 2-1 series lead.

Carey Price (10-4, 2.10 goals-against average, .932 save percentage in 14 games played) made 43 saves on 45 shots against in the win for the Canadiens.

Meanwhile, Marc-Andre Fleury (9-6, 1.97 goals-against average, .921 save percentage in 15 games played) stopped 24 out of 27 shots faced in the loss for the Golden Knights.

Tomas Nosek took part in the pregame warmup and returned to Vegas’ lineup for the first time since Game 2 against the Minnesota Wild in the First Round, while Chandler Stephenson remained out of the lineup.

Meanwhile, Montréal was without their head coach, Dominique Ducharme, after he tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to self-isolate, where he may remain for up to 10 days.

Luke Richardson served as the head coach for the Habs, while Alex Burrows and Sean Burke retained their role as assistants on Friday night.

Neither team found their way onto the scoreboard in the opening frame as both clubs traded power play opportunities.

First, Jesperi Kotkaniemi hooked Alec Martinez and presented the Golden Knights with the first skater advantage at 6:52 of the first period, but Vegas couldn’t convert on the resulting power play.

The Canadiens struggled on their first power play of the night when Keegan Kolesar cut a rut to the box for interference at 9:26 of the first period.

Late in the opening frame, Joel Armia boarded Brayden McNabb and was assessed an infraction at 17:54, but the Golden Knights couldn’t muster anything on the advantage.

Heading into the first intermission, Vegas and Montréal were tied, 0-0, on the scoreboard, despite the Golden Knights holding a, 17-3, advantage in shots on goal in the first period alone.

The Habs led in blocked shots (6-2), giveaways (6-0), hits (15-14) and faceoff win percentage (58-42), while both teams managed to have one takeaway each after one period of action.

Vegas was 0/2 and Montréal was 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Shea Weber interfered with McNabb 24 seconds into the second period, but the Golden Knights couldn’t convert on the ensuing power play.

They would, however, capitalize within the vulnerable minute after special teams action as Nicolas Roy (3) beat Price over the glove from point blank on a turnover by Eric Staal after Staal gave the puck right to Roy from the trapezoid.

Roy’s unassisted effort made it, 1-0, Vegas at 3:16 of the second period.

Less than a minute later, however, the Canadiens answered back in a hurry as Cole Caufield (2) struck on a breakaway– beating Fleury on the glove side after Nick Suzuki set up Caufield for the goal.

Suzuki (5) had the only assist as Montréal tied it, 1-1, at 3:54.

Midway through the second period, Kotkaniemi hooked Max Pacioretty and presented the Golden Knights with another power play at 14:31, but Vegas couldn’t convert on the resulting advantage.

Neither could the Habs when Nosek tripped Jeff Petry at 19:42.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Golden Knights and Canadiens were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard, despite Vegas holding a, 30-8, advantage in shots on goal, including a, 13-5, advantage in the second period alone.

Montréal continued to dominated in blocked shots (15-9), giveaways (17-3) and hits (33-29), while Vegas led in takeaways (3-2) and faceoff win% (56-44).

As there were no more penalties called for the rest of the night, the Golden Knights went 0/4 on the power play, while the Canadiens went 0/2 on the skater advantage on Friday.

Alex Pietrangelo (4) put Vegas ahead of the Habs, 2-1, with a shot under Price’s blocker side at 2:22 of the third period as Pacioretty (5) and Nosek (1) tabbed the assists.

Once more, however, the Golden Knights couldn’t extend their lead, nor could they hold onto the lead as Fleury mishandled a puck and blipped it to Anderson (2) for an unassisted goal to tie the game, 2-2, at 18:05 of the final frame.

Fleury’s costly error sent the game to overtime as the teams were tied, 2-2, after regulation, despite Vegas leading in shots on goal, 40-21.

Montréal actually held the advantage in shots on net in the third period alone, 13-10, while the Habs also dominated in blocked shots (17-16), giveaways (24-8) and hits (45-31).

The Golden Knights led in faceoff win% (51-49), while both teams managed to have four takeaways each.

Though Vegas dominated possession for most of the night, Montréal hit another gear in the overtime period as they led rush after rush into the attacking zone in the extra frame.

Eventually, Kotkaniemi sent an aerial pass to Anderson, who gathered the puck out of the air with his stick and flipped it along to Paul Byron for a give-and-go before Anderson (3) wrapped the rubber biscuit around Fleury while the Golden Knights goaltender dove in desperation.

Montréal had won, 3-2, in overtime thanks to Anderson’s second goal of the night, while Byron (2) and Kotkaniemi (2) tallied the assists on the game-winning goal at 12:53 of the extra frame.

With the win in Game 3, the Canadiens took a 2-1 series lead in front of their fans, while Vegas finished the night leading in shots on goal, 45-27.

The Habs wrapped up Friday night’s action leading in giveaways (25-15) and hits (52-36), while the Golden Knights led in blocked shots (21-20) and faceoff win% (51-49).

Vegas fell to 1-3 in overtime this postseason, while Montréal improved to 4-0 past regulation in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Game 4 is back at Bell Centre in Montréal on Sunday night with a chance for the Canadiens to take a commanding 3-1 series lead or for the Golden Knights to even things up 2-2 heading back out west for Game 5.

Puck drop is set for 8 p.m. ET on Sunday and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for the action, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS for game coverage.

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Canadiens tie series 1-1 in, 3-2, win on the road

Paul Byron scored the game-winning goal late in the second period before Alex Pietrangelo tried his best to will the home team back into the fray with a pair of goals of his own as the Montréal Canadiens stole Game 2 from the Vegas Golden Knights, 3-2, on the road at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday.

Carey Price (9-4, 2.14 goals-against average, .930 save percentage in 13 games played) made 29 saves on 31 shots against in the win for the Canadiens as Montréal evened the series 1-1.

Golden Knights goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury (9-5, 1.93 goals-against average, .923 save percentage in 14 games played), stopped 20 out of 23 shots faced in the loss.

Jeff Petry and Jon Merrill returned to action for the Habs on their blue line, while Jake Evans remained out of the lineup due to injury.

Vegas forward, Nicolas Roy, was promoted to center Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, while Chandler Stephenson was out due to injury.

Joel Armia (5) pounced on a loose puck and buried it on the short side early in the opening frame while Fleury dove across the crease and came up a little bit short.

Joel Edmundson (4) and Corey Perry (5) tallied the assists on Armia’s goal as the Canadiens jumped out to a, 1-0, lead at 6:12 of the first period.

A few minutes later, Petry cut a rut to the penalty box after he tripped up Reilly Smith– presenting the Golden Knights with a power play at 9:51 of the first period in the process.

Vegas did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Late in the opening frame, Montréal won an attacking zone faceoff back to the point where Petry worked the puck up to winger, Cole Caufield, as Caufield found Tyler Toffoli (5) for an off-speed one-timer goal.

Caufield (5) and Petry (4) had the assists as the Habs extended their lead to two-goals at 16:30.

Entering the first intermission the Canadiens led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 12-4, in shots on goal.

Montréal also held the advantage in hits (24-13) and faceoff win percentage (55-45), while Vegas led in takeaways (6-2) and giveaways (5-2).

Both teams managed to have eight blocked shots each, while only the Golden Knights had seen time on the skater advantage and were 0/1 after one period.

Armia was sent to the box with a holding infraction to kick things off with a Vegas power play at 5:55 of the second period.

The Golden Knights did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Late in the period, Jesperi Kotkaniemi chipped the puck off the boards and through the neutral zone as Josh Anderson tied up Nick Holden at the blue line while the puck trickled past and Byron entered the attacking zone with a breakaway at hand.

Byron (2) scored the eventual game-winning goal as a result and gave Montréal a, 3-0, lead at 17:45 of the second period as Kotkaniemi (1) and Edmundson (5) were credited with the helpers.

A minute later, Pietrangelo (2) sent a wrist shot through heavy traffic past Price as the Canadiens goaltender never saw the puck off of a faceoff win in the attacking zone for the Golden Knights.

Keegan Kolesar (3) had the only assist on Pietrangelo’s first goal of the night as Vegas cut Montréal’s lead to, 3-1, at 18:46 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Habs led, 3-1, on the scorebaord and, 16-14, in shots on goal, despite trailing the Golden Knights, 10-4, in shots on goal in the second period alone.

The Canadiens held the advantage in blocked shots (15-14), hits (41-32) and faceoff win% (53-48), while Vegas led in takeaways (6-2) and giveaways (6-3).

As there were no penalties called in the final frame, the Golden Knights finished 0/2 on the power play for the night, while Montréal didn’t even see any time on the skater advantage on Wednesday.

Late in the final frame, Pietrangelo (3) sent the puck through Petry’s legs and under Price’s glove on another goal off an attacking zone faceoff win for the Golden Knights as Vegas cut Montréal’s lead to one-goal.

Jonathan Marchessault (3) and William Karlsson (9) notched the assists on Pietrangelo’s second goal of the night as the Golden Knights trailed, 3-2, at 14:46 of the third period.

Peter DeBoer pulled Fleury for an extra attacker with 1:35 remaining, but it was ultimately to no avail as the final horn sounded and the Canadiens stole Game 2 on the road by a score of, 3-2.

This, after Karlsson delivered a swift cross check that let to Edmundson smashing the boards awkwardly and taking his time to get back up and off the ice on his own after a stoppage with 50.3 seconds remaining.

There was no penalty called and– after Vegas used their timeout– time kept ticking down until the Habs had successfully tied the series 1-1.

The Canadiens won, 3-2, but finished the night trailing in shots on goal, 31-23, as Vegas led, 17-7, in shots on net in the third period alone.

The Golden Knights also held the advantage in giveaways (10-5), while Montréal exited T-Mobile Arena with the lead in blocked shots (26-18), hits (53-45) and faceoff win% (58-42).

As a result of the victory, Price (9-4) earned his ninth win of the 2021 postseason– the most by a Canadiens goaltender in a postseason since Jaroslav Halak (9-9) had nine victories in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The series shifts to Bell Centre in Montréal, Québec on Friday night for Game 3.

Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the action on USA Network, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS as the Canadiens and Golden Knights battle to take a 2-1 series lead.

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Golden Knights rout Canadiens, 4-1, in Game 1 of Semifinals

For the second time in their four years of existence, the Vegas Golden Knights are three wins away from another Stanley Cup Final appearance after defeating the Montréal Canadiens, 4-1, in Game 1 of their Semifinals matchup Monday night at T-Mobile Arena.

Alec Martinez is no stranger to scoring game-winning goals in the postseason as the Golden Knights defender notched the eventual game-winning goal early in the second period to the pleasure of the home crowd as Marc-Andre Fleury (9-4, 1.84 goals-against average, .927 save percentage in 13 games played) made 28 saves on 29 shots against in the win.

Canadiens goaltender, Carey Price (8-4, 2.15 goals-against average, .929 save percentage in 12 games played), stopped 26 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.

On Jan. 18, 2020, less than two months before the ongoing global pandemic began, the Habs beat Vegas, 5-4, in a shootout victory at Bell Centre in Montréal, Québec across the United States-Canadian border.

That was the last time the two clubs met each other before kicking off their best-of-seven series on Monday night in the first U.S.-based team vs. Canadian-based team matchup of the league’s 2020-21 calendar.

Jeff Petry, Jake Evans and Jon Merrill were not available for Montréal in Game 1 as the trio of skaters remain out of the lineup due to injury.

Early in the opening frame, Jonathan Marchessault caught Alexander Romanov with a high stick and presented the game’s first power play to the Canadiens as a result at 2:38 of the first period.

Montréal was not successful on the ensuing skater advantage.

Almost midway through the first period, the Habs iced the puck and proceeded to lose a faceoff in their own zone, whereby Vegas worked the puck back to Brayden McNabb for the “D-to-D” pass along the point.

Shea Theodore (1) unloaded on a slap shot that beat Price on the blocker side while the Canadiens goaltender never saw the rubber biscuit speed past him as there was heavy net front traffic limiting his view from Montréal’s crease.

McNabb (3) and Chandler Stephenson (6) tallied the assists on Theodore’s first goal of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Golden Knights took a, 1-0, lead at 9:15 of the first period as a result.

Phillip Danault hooked Alex Tuch late in the period and presented Vegas with the night’s first power play at 18:20, but the Golden Knights weren’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Heading into the first intermission, Vegas led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing Montréal in shots on goal, 12-8.

The Canadiens led in blocked shots (7-4) and faceoff win percentage (56-44), while the Golden Knights led in giveaways (6-1) and hits (23-21).

Both teams managed to have two takeaways each and were 0/1 on the power play after one period.

Seven seconds into the second period, Ben Chiarot cut a rut to the penalty box for sending an errant puck over the glass– yielding an automatic delay of game infraction and presenting Vegas with another power play.

Though the Golden Knights didn’t convert on the skater advantage, they were successful in the vulnerable minute after special teams action as Theodore setup Martinez (3) with a pump fake pass for the one-timer goal from Martinez’s office at the dot while Price overcommitted on Theodore’s look– thereby scoring on the Habs netminder on what was rendered as a de facto empty net.

Theodore (7) and Reilly Smith (6) tallied the assists on the goal as Vegas pulled ahead, 2-0, at 2:18 of the second period.

Midway through the middle frame, Joel Edmundson caught Marchessault with a slash at 5:04, but the Golden Knight’s resulting power play was short lived as Theodore tripped up Paul Byron at 5:20.

After a span of 1:45 at 4-on-4 action, the Canadiens wound up with an abbreviated power play, but couldn’t convert on the short skater advantage.

Moments later, Brett Kulak tripped up Stephenson at 8:20, but Vegas was not successful on the ensuing power play.

A few minutes after Kulak’s trip to the penalty box, Montréal went on the power play as William Carrier took his turn in the sin bin for roughing at 11:46.

The Habs worked quick on the ensuing skater advantage as Corey Perry passed the puck to Tyler Toffoli for a shot that generated a rebound right to Cole Caufield (1) as the young Canadiens forward pounced on the loose puck and buried it in the twine for his first career Stanley Cup Playoffs goal.

Toffoli (7) and Perry (4) had the assists on Caufield’s power-play goal as Montréal cut Vegas’ lead in half, 2-1, at 12:05 of the second period.

Less than a minute later, however, the Golden Knights responded on the scoreboard as Mattias Janmark (4) redirected a puck from the doorstep that had already deflected off of Canadien forward, Josh Anderson, to make it, 3-1, for Vegas at 12:58.

Tuch (4) and Zach Whitecloud (3) notched the assists on Janmark’s goal 53 seconds after the Habs ruined Fleury’s bid for a shutout.

The Golden Knights, meanwhile, continued to be successful at converting attacking zone faceoff wins into effective offensive markings on the scoreboard.

Through 40 minutes of play, Vegas led, 3-1, on the scoreboard and pulled ahead of Montréal in shots on goal, 21-17, thanks to a, 13-5, advantage in the second period alone.

The Habs, however, continued to dominated in blocked shots (12-8), takeaways (8-7), hits (39-30) and faceoff win% (56-44), while the Golden Knights led in giveaways (9-4).

Montréal was 1/3 on the power play, while Vegas was 0/4 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame, where no penalties were called in the last 20 minutes of action.

Smith sent a pass to Nick Holden (2) through the high slot for a catch and release goal to give Vegas a three-goal lead, 4-1, at 10:06 of the third period.

Smith (7) and William Karlsson (8) tallied the assists as the Golden Knights defended their crease for the rest of the night and protected their lead even after Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, pulled Price for an extra attacker with about 4:35 remaining in regulation.

Price didn’t remain out of the net for long, however, as he was returned to the crease with about 35 seconds left on the clock, seeing as the Habs were still trailing by a few goals and with nothing left to lose except for pride, if Vegas had found a way to score one more goal on the evening.

At the final horn, the Golden Knights had won, 4-1, and taken a 1-0 series lead as a result.

Vegas finished Monday’s effort leading in shots on goal, 30-29, despite trailing Montréal, 12-9, in the third period alone.

The Golden Knights wound up with the final advantage in blocked shots (16-15) and giveaways (10-5), while the Canadiens exited the building leading in hits (52-44) and faceoff win% (56-44).

The Habs finished 1/3 on the skater advantage, while Vegas went 0/4 on the power play in Game 1.

The Golden Knights host the Canadiens for Game 2 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Wednesday night with a 1-0 series lead.

Puck drop is expected a little after 9 p.m. ET and fans in the United States can tune to NBCSN for the action, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS for coverage.