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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 36-17-3, 75 points

3rd in the Discover NHL Central Division

Defeated Montréal in the Stanley Cup Final

Additions: F Pierre-Édouard Bellemare, F Gabriel Dumont, F Remi Elie, F Charles Hudon, F Corey Perry, D Zach Bogosian, D Brent Seabrook (acquired from CHI), D Andrej Sustr, G Brian Elliott, G Maxime Lagacé

Subtractions: F Alex Barré-Boulet (re-signed, then claimed off waivers by SEA), F Blake Coleman (signed with CGY), F Marian Gaborik (contract expired, informally retired), F Barclay Goodrow (traded to NYR), F Yanni Gourde (expansion, SEA), F Tyler Johnson (traded to CHI), F Ryan Lohin (signed with Charlotte Checkers, AHL), F Mitchell Stephens (traded to DET), F/D Luke Witkowski (signed with DET), D Andreas Borgman (signed with DAL), D Brian Lashoff (signed with DET), D David Savard (signed with MTL), D Luke Schenn (signed with VAN), D Ben Thomas (SHL), G Christopher Gibson (signed with FLA), G Spencer Martin (traded to VAN), G Curtis McElhinney (retired), G Anders Nilsson (retired)

Still Unsigned: F Boo Nieves

Re-signed: F Ross Colton, F Boris Katchouk, F Taylor Raddysh, F Gemel Smith, F Otto Somppi, D Fredrik Claesson, D Sean Day, D Cal Foote

Offseason Analysis: One of the good things about winning the Cup is that the following season’s expectations are wiped clean. Sure, fans and analysts may want to see you win it again in back-to-back seasons, but that’s just icing on the cake and any run that comes up short in the year following a Cup ring can be forgiven.

Luckily for Tampa, they won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2020 and 2021, so if they don’t happen to become the first team to win three consecutive titles since the New York Islanders won four Stanley Cup rings in a row from 1980-83, that’s fine.

The Lightning don’t get two straight years of postseason forgiveness, however.

Rather, the Bolts are on the quest for the first dynasty in the National Hockey League since the Edmonton Oilers won three Cups in four years from 1987-90.

That’s right, folks, Chicago didn’t have a dynasty when they won in 2010, 2013 and 2015. There’s a few too many years in-between.

Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy and the rest of the Lightning, however, have a chance of doing something not even Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury with the Pittsburgh Penguins, nor Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford and the rest in Chicago were able to do– win three-straight Stanley Cup Finals.

Oh and the dynasty thing too, which is a given.

But success comes with a price in the loss of depth over time– whether it’s because of lower draft picks over time or simply due to salary cap constraints that pressure Cup winners into shipping out some of the glue guys from the team that just won it all in the middle of a summer-long party.

It is, after all, a business.

Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow and Yanni Gourde– Tampa’s third line that could be a second line on any other roster– was broken up over the summer.

Coleman joined the Calgary Flames in free agency, Goodrow was traded to the New York Rangers and Gourde was a victim of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft– in other words, the first certified star forward in the making for the Seattle Kraken.

Though the Lightning will miss out on the speed and production of that line in their bottom-six, Tampa is more than ready to promote some bottom-six breakout stars from last season into genuine full-time roles, while also accommodating for general turnover after winning back-to-back Cups.

Tampa General Manager, Julien BriseBois, signed Corey Perry to a two-year deal worth $1.000 million per season as a low-risk, high-reward veteran that can manage bottom-six minutes with efficiency at this point in his career– yielding 21 points in each of the last two seasons (5-16–21 totals in 57 games with the Dallas Stars in 2019-20, 9-12–21 totals in 49 games with the Montréal Canadiens in 2020-21), while finishing as the first runner up to the Lightning in back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances.

BriseBois also added Pierre-Édouard Bellemare to the Bolts’ fourth line after Bellemare spent the last two seasons in a Colorado Avalanche uniform, recording 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 53 games for the Avs last season, as well as a career-high 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 69 gamed with Colorado in 2019-20.

Among internal options to move up into the top-nine or make the fourth line after spending last year on the taxi squad or bouncing around in recent years between stints in the NHL, AHL, Major Junior or college, Ross Colton, Boris Katchouk, Mathieu Joseph, Gemel Smith and Taylor Raddysh all present themselves as options to compete for– if not rotate in and out of– a spot on the fourth line.

Colton scored the Cup clinching goal in the second period of Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final– the only goal of the, 1-0, victory over the Canadiens that secured Tampa’s second Cup ring in as many years.

In 30 games last season, he had 9-3–12 totals. Not bad for a 25-year-old on the rise after spending parts of the last three seasons with the Syracuse Crunch (AHL).

Joseph managed 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in 70 games with the Bolts in 2018-19, before being limited to 4-3–7 totals in just 37 games in 2019-20.

Last season, he bounced back with 19 points (12 goals, seven assists) in 56 games and is sure to continue to mesh well with Tampa’s influx of youth in the bottom-six as a 24-year-old forward.

Entering 2021-22, Katchouk and Raddysh are still looking to make their NHL debuts, though Raddysh is slated to be in the lineup against Pittsburgh on Opening Night.

While Tampa sorts out their supporting cast, one thing that’s remained consistent is the Lightning’s top-six as Kucherov returns to regular season action for a full 82-game slate alongside Point and Ondrej Palat on the first line.

Meanwhile, Anthony Cirelli leads Alex Killorn and Stamkos on the second line as Hedman, Jan Rutta, Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak lead the defenders with Mikhail Sergachev paired alongside Zach Bogosian (he’s back!).

Curtis McElhinney retired over the summer, though not before BriseBois upgraded his backup goaltender role with Brian Elliott first.

Elliott’s looking to rebound from a rough stint with the Philadelphia Flyers over the last four seasons, in which he most recently went 15-9-2 with a 3.06 goals-against average, an .889 save percentage and two shutouts in 30 games played.

He’s sure to benefit from 1) Tampa’s defense and 2) Vasilevskiy yielding an overwhelming majority of games in the regular season.

Vasilevskiy produced a 31-10-1 record in 42 games last season with a 2.21 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and five shutouts in that span.

As for what else is missing from this summer’s tactical overhaul with the salary cap in mind after winning back-to-back Cups?

Let’s review all of Tampa’s trades from after the Final through now real quick, shall we?

Goodrow was dealt to the New York Rangers for a 2022 7th round pick on July 17th, then BriseBois swapped a 2022 4th round pick for a 2021 4th round pick with Montréal at the second day of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft on July 24th.

A few days later, he cleared out some salary by shipping Tyler Johnson to Chicago with a 2023 2nd round pick for Seabrook’s contract that is currently on the long-term injured reserve thanks to a career-ending injury that renders Seabrook as a forgiven cap hit on the books.

Mitchell Stephens packed his bags out of Tampa for the Detriot Red Wings in exchange for a 2022 6th round pick on July 30th, then the Lightning sent Spencer Martin to the Vancouver Canucks for future considerations on July 31st.

Offseason Grade: C

Down the road, Point’s eight-year extension at $9.500 million per season is an excellent move made by BriseBois, but since that contract goes into effect starting next season (2022-23), it doesn’t sway the offseason grade for 2021.

If it were just a postseason grade, the Bolts would get an “A”, but since this is a measure of everything that happened after the 2021 Stanley Cup Final and before the 2021-22 season gets underway, well, Tampa had an average summer.

They filled some holes, shed some salary and were forced to make difficult decisions in other areas thanks to the existence of the salary cap and some key players being healthy for a change as the Lightning embark on their two-time defending Stanley Cup champion season.

All in all, it’s not too bad to be a fan of the Lightning these days or a member of the organization– as long as you got here before the 2021 Stanley Cup Final wrapped up.

This isn’t to say that Tampa will be bad by any means, but rather that they’re content with contending for the next few years to come– at least– so if they don’t win three Cup rings in as many years, that’s fine. They’ll be quite alright.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning repeat as Stanley Cup champions in Game 5 shutout

Ross Colton’s goal was more than enough to seal the deal on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s third Stanley Cup championship in franchise history Wednesday night at Amalie Arena in Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 22 saves in a, 1-0, shutout victory on home ice over the Montréal Canadiens as he became the first goaltender since legendary Canadiens goaltender, Ken Dryden, to play in every playoff game en route to winning back-to-back Stanley Cup rings.

It was also the 5th shutout (6th of his postseason career) for Vasilevskiy this postseason as the Lightning goaltender became the first in league history to win all four series clinching games in a shutout.

He’s also won his last five consecutive playoff series’ in shutout fashion as Tampa shutout the Dallas Stars, 2-0, in Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final before going on their 2021 run by shutting out the Florida Panthers, 4-0, in Game 6 of Tampa’s 2021 First Round matchup, eliminating the Carolina Hurricanes, 2-0, in Game 5 in the 2021 Second Round and beating the New York Islanders and Canadiens, 1-0, in Game 7 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals and Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, respectively.

Colton was also the fourth rookie to score a Stanley Cup clinching goal since 1927, in Wednesday night’s effort.

The Bolts are back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, having won the Cup in 2020 and 2021, as the first repeat champions since the Pittsburgh Penguins did so in 2016 and 2017.

Tampa also did so in a span of about 10 months, since the ongoing global pandemic altered the National Hockey League’s postseason calendar for 2020, and shortened the 2020-21 league calendar to 56 games in the regular season, followed by a postseason that began in May and ended in the first week of July.

Last year, the Lightning raised the Cup as the designated road team at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta at a neutral site as the NHL played through the COVID-19 pandemic in a bubble in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

This year, for the first time in 17 years, the Bolts raised the Cup in front of their home fans as 2004 Stanley Cup champion with Tampa, Dave Andreychuk, watched along in attendance to cap the 2020-21 Lightning’s run.

In 2004, NHL on ESPN and NHL on ABC coverage had come to an end with the conclusion of Tampa’s Game 7 victory over the Calgary Flames in the Stanley Cup Final.

The 2004-05 season-long lockout that ultimately canceled all NHL action for the year meant that ESPN could punt their broadcasting rights to the 2005-06 season or opt out altogether.

They chose the latter.

That’s when NBC stepped in and the NHL had games on Outdoor Life Network, then Versus, NBC Sports Network (which shortly rebranded as NBCSN), as well as on NBC.

In 2021, NHL on NBC signed off for the final time as the league shifts its focus back to ESPN/Disney and Turner Sports for the next seven seasons in the United States starting with the 2021-22 season (the 2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft and first round of the 2021 NHL Draft will be on ESPN2 this month, if you’re wondering).

Back at Amalie Arena on Wednesday night, Vasilevskiy (16-7, 1.90 goals-against average, .937 save percentage in 23 games played) made 22 saves on 22 shots against en route to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs’ Most Valuable Player.

Montréal goaltender, Carey Price (13-9, 2.28 goals-against average, .924 save percentage in 22 games) stopped 29 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.

Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, improved to 9-0 all time in a series when leading 2-0, while the Bolts became the first team to raise the Cup on home ice since Chicago did so in 2015.

Pat Maroon, meanwhile, also became the first player (and fourth overall) since Ed Litzenberger to win three consecutive Cups with two different teams as Litzenberger won with Chicago in 1961, as well as Toronto from 1962-64.

Neither Habs head coach, Dominique Ducharme, nor Cooper, made a change to their lineups for Game 5 on Wednesday.

Alex Killorn remained out of the lineup for the Lightning for fourth game in-a-row after blocking a shot in Game 1. He told reporters after the game that he suffered a broken left fibula in Game 1 and wanted to suit up again if he could play.

Corey Perry kicked things off in Game 5 with a hooking infraction as Perry impeded Mathieu Joseph’s play and presented the Lightning with the game’s first power play at 3:21 of the first period.

Tampa couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Moments later, the Canadiens got their first chance on the power play as Jan Rutta cross checked Artturi Lehkonen at 7:19.

Montréal’s time on the advantage was unchanged as Erik Cernak earned an interference minor and Perry was assessed an embellishment infraction almost a minute after Rutta cut a rut to the penalty box at 8:15.

About 30 seconds after Cernak and Perry went to the sin bin, though, Josh Anderson hooked Blake Coleman and joined his teammates in Montréal’s box at 8:43 of the opening frame.

The two teams skated at 4-on-4 for 37 seconds before Tampa had an abbreviated power play thereafter.

Just past the midpoint of the first period, the Bolts were outshooting the Habs, 11-2, with 9:53 remaining in the opening period– reminiscent of how the Lightning outshot the Canadiens, 11-1, through the first half of the first period in Game 4.

Entering the first intermission, the score was still tied, 0-0, despite Tampa outshooting Montréal, 13-4.

The Bolts also held the advantage in blocked shots (3-0), takeaways (2-1) and hits (25-16), while the Habs led in faceoff win percentage (52-48) after one period.

Both teams had three giveaways each while the Canadiens were 0/1 and the Lightning were 0/2 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

David Savard sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play and received an automatic minor 21 seconds into the second period, but the Habs couldn’t score on the resulting power play.

Almost midway through the second frame, Mikhail Sergachev tripped up Nick Suzuki and presented the Canadiens with another power play that went by the wayside at 8:32.

Moments later in Tampa’s attacking zone, Ryan McDonagh made a lateral pass along the blue line to Savard, who promptly crashed the slot and slid a shot pass towards the crease for Colton (4) to redirect into the twine.

Savard (5) and McDonagh (8) had the assists on Colton’s goal as the Lightning took a, 1-0, lead at 13:27 of the second period.

Keeping in the trend with the rest of the series– the team that scored first in each game won the game.

Late in the period, Ben Chiarot yanked Brayden Point down on a breakaway, yielding a power play to the Bolts as a result as Chiarot was assessed with a holding infraction at 19:22.

Though the ensuing skater advantage spanned the end of the second period and the start of the final frame of regulation, the Bolts couldn’t find a way to solve Montréal’s penalty kill.

After 40 minutes of action at Amalie Arena on Wednesday night, the Lightning lead the Canadiens, 1-0, on the scoreboard and were outshooting the Habs, 19-14, despite Montréal holding a, 10-6, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.

Tampa held the lead in blocked shots (4-3), takeaways (7-3), giveaways (10-3) and hits (44-35), while the Canadiens led in faceoff win% (54-46).

Both teams were 0/3 on the power play heading into the final period.

Early in the third period, Nikita Kucherov had a great chance to score, but Price stood tall and shut him down while losing his stick and making desperation saves.

Montréal responded with a breakaway as Anderson burst into the zone with tremendous speed, was denied by Vasilevskiy and ultimately crashed back-first into the post and briefly went down the tunnel before returning for the rest of the game.

With 1:51 remaining in the third period, Ducharme pulled Price for an extra attacker, but after a stoppage resulted in neutral zone faceoff, the Habs sent Price back into the crease for a few seconds to ensure a little security between the pipes if they lost the draw.

Montréal won the ensuing faceoff as Price once again sprinted for the bench with 1:36 remaining, but Tampa’s defense was too much for the Canadiens– though the Lightning’s offense couldn’t put an exclamation point on the game with an empty net goal.

The Habs used their timeout with 1:24 remaining as assistant coach, Alex Burrows, tried to rally his players for one last push.

At the final horn, Vasilevskiy and the Bolts earned a, 1-0, shutout in Game 5 and clinched their second-straight Stanley Cup ring in as many years.

Wednesday night marked the third time that Tampa won the Cup in franchise history.

The Bolts also improved to 17-3 all time when scoring first in series-clinching games.

Tampa finished Game 5 leading in shots on goal, 30-22, including an, 11-8, advantage in the third period alone.

The Lightning dominated in just about everything else at the end of the night, leading in giveaways (11-6), hits (56-48) and faceoff win% (52-48), while both teams had nine blocked shots each.

Montréal exited the building 0/3 on the power play, but then again, Tampa also struggled on the skater advantage in the action– going 0/3 on Wednesday night as well.

Tampa finished the 2021 postseason 16-7 overall, while the Habs went 13-9.

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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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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 Previews

Lightning seeking back-to-back trips to the Stanley Cup Final

There are four teams remaining in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and for the first time since 1981, there are no Conference Finals going on.

Due to the ongoing global pandemic, the National Hockey League was forced to temporarily realign the divisions and get rid of conferences for a season as the league and it’s players’ union did what they could to get an abbreviated 56-game regular season schedule and a full Stanley Cup Playoffs experience in the history books.

In May, ESPN‘s Greg Wyshynski reported that the league would not award the Prince of Wales Trophy and the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl to the victors of the equivalent third round, but after the Vegas Golden Knights eliminated the Colorado Avalanche in six games to conclude the Second Round of this year’s postseason on Thursday, the league apparently changed its mind.

With a regular all-Eastern Conference matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders, as well as 50% of the teams representing the Western Conference in the other Semifinal series, both trophies will be awarded to the third round series winners after all.

The winner of the Lightning and Islanders series will take home the Prince of Wales Trophy, while either the Golden Knights or the Montréal Canadiens will win the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl.

Montréal can join a short list of teams to have won both trophies in franchise history, as only the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks and Islanders have won each before.

How is this possible, you ask?

Well, for starters, the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl was introduced in the 1967-68 season and awarded to the team that finished with the best regular season record in the West Division (the precursor to the Western Conference in the modern era), while the Prince of Wales Trophy dates back to the 1925-26 season and, you guessed it, eventually became the East Division (pre-Eastern Conference days) equivalent.

Ahead of the 1981-82 season, however, the league changed its postseason to include a Conference Finals round, thus involving these trophies in the playoffs and eventually leading to the creation of the Presidents’ Trophy for the team with the best regular season record since the 1985-86 season.

So anyway, the teams mentioned above that won both have changed conferences and divisions over time.

Now let’s talk about one-half of the Semifinal matchups– the Lightning and the Islanders.

(2) Tampa Bay Lightning (36-17-3, 75 points) vs (3) New York Islanders (32-17-7, 71 points)

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

N.Y. Islanders: 56 games played, .634 points percentage, 24 regulation wins.

The Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated the Florida Panthers in six games (4-2) in the First Round before taking care of the Carolina Hurricanes in a five-game upset (4-1) to represent the Discover NHL Central Division in the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals.

They’re also the defending Stanley Cup champions looking to be the first team to repeat as such since the Pittsburgh Penguins won back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017.

The Bolts have followed the league’s salary cap rules to a “T”, which enabled them to spend almost $99 million as the playoffs began because Nikita Kucherov had been on the long term injured reserve all season long and due to the fact that the cap ceiling disappears for the postseason.

Brayden Point led the Lightning in the regular season with 23-25–48 totals in 56 games, while 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 scoring on the roster in 2020-21.

Through 11 games this postseason, Kucherov hasn’t missed a beat, leading his teammates with 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) in that span.

Tampa’s captain, Steven Stamkos, missed the last part of the regular season, but returned in time for the playoffs and has not missed any action due to injury.

As a result, he’s had 5-8–13 totals in 11 games– good enough for the second-most points by a Lightning skater in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, while Point (8-4–12 totals in 11 games) and Alex Killorn (6-6–12 totals in 11 games) are tied for the third-most on the postseason roster.

In the crease, Andrei Vasilevskiy led Tampa’s netminders with a 31-10-1 record in 42 games played (42 starts), yielding a 2.21 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and five shutouts in the process.

Curtis McElhinney served as Vasilevskiy’s backup and amassed a 4-6-2 record in 12 games (12 starts), as well as a 3.09 goals-against average, an .875 save percentage and one shutout in that span.

Christopher Gibson even got a little time in net, recording a 1-1-0 record in two games (two starts), as well as a 2.65 goals-against average and an .875 save percentage.

Thus far in the playoffs, Vasilevskiy has yet to be chased from the crease– putting up an 8-3 record in 11 games (11 starts) to go with his 2.24 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.

Oh and he’s more than doubled his career postseason shutout total– recording two so far in Tampa’s quest for back-to-back rings.

At the other end of the rink, the New York Islanders beat two teams they’re used to beating in the history of the Stanley Cup Playoffs– defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games (4-2) in the First Round and the Boston Bruins in six games (4-2), as well, in the Second Round to reach the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals as the MassMutual NHL East Division’s representation.

Head coach, Barry Trotz, is still using his modified trap, though New York’s potent offense is actually leading the way in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 43 goals for thus far.

Vegas is second with 40 goals for, while Tampa sits third with 38 goals for and the best goal differential in the postseason so far with a plus-12 differential.

Mathew Barzal (17-28–45 totals in 55 games) led the Isles in scoring in the regular season. Josh Bailey (8-27–35 totals in 54 games), Brock Nelson (18-15–33 totals in 56 gmaes) and Jordan Eberle (16-17–33 totals in 56 games) rounded out the top-three in team scoring in 2020-21.

Through 12 games this postseason, Jean-Gabriel Pageau has emerged at peak performance at the right time of the year to be on top of one’s game, leading the Islanders in playoff scoring with 3-10–13 totals.

Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier each have 11 points in 12 games, while Nelson has the fourth-most points on the playoff roster with 6-4–10 totals in that span.

In net, Semyon Varlamov led the way as New York’s starter, amassing a 19-11-4 record in 36 games (35 starts), as well as a 2.04 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage and tied for the league lead in shutouts with Colorado Avalanche netminder, Philipp Grubauer, blanking opponents on the scoreboard seven times each this season.

Ilya Sorokin’s first season in the NHL was served in a backup role, going 13-6-3 in 22 games (21 starts) and accruing a 2.17 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and three shutouts in that span.

Though Sorokin ultimately helped the Islanders get over the Penguins in the First Round, his Game 1 performance against Boston left something to be desired, forcing Trotz to hand the keys to the crease back to Varlamov.

Varlamov’s gone on to post a 4-3 record in seven games (seven starts) this postseason, notching a 2.62 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage in the process.

Sorokin, meanwhile, has a 4-1 record in five games (five starts), as well as a 2.32 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage.

With the way Varlamov’s been playing as of late– recording 40 saves against the Bruins some nights– it’s not likely that Sorokin will see any action against the Bolts.

Unlike how the Lightning got a key component of their roster in Kucherov back in time for when it counts, New York’s captain, Anders Lee, remains sidelined until the 2021-22 season with a knee injury.


These two teams are meeting for the fourth time in a playoff series, with the Lightning holding a 3-0 all time advantage, having defeated the Islanders in five games (4-1) in the 2004 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, in five games (4-1) again in the 2016 Second Round, as well as in six games (4-2) in the 2020 Eastern Conference Final.

For the second year in a row, these two clubs are squaring off in the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but unlike last year’s neutral site at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, the home crowds may be a factor in 2021.

What’s more, these two teams have yet to play each other thanks to the temporary division realignment for 2020-21, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

If history is any indicator, it’s that Tampa should win the series and extend their all time advantage to 4-0, but New York presented a challenge to the Bolts last year that is sure to be amplified by both rosters’ familiarity with each other, as well as the fact that the Lightning will have to go through the ringer that is known as Nassau Live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

This isn’t to say that the fans in attendance at Amalie Arena won’t be just as boisterous, but there’s something to be said about a Long Island crowd this time of year– especially one that’s been longing for their first Stanley Cup title since 1983.

Not only that, but it’d be a great way to send the building off into retirement as the Islanders move into their new home in Elmont, New York at UBS Arena next season.

That said, the Lightning have home-ice advantage in this series for the first time this postseason and they’ve been pretty good at stealing games on the road– winning two out of three games in the First Round at BB&T Center against Florida and all three games held at PNC Arena in their Second Round series with Carolina.

2020 Stanley Cup winning head coach, Jon Cooper, pitted against 2018 Stanley Cup winning head coach in Trotz (then of the Washington Capitals)– this rematch is sure to be one hell of a battle.

Though the Lightning have cruised thus far, there’s something to be said about the tenacity of the Islanders and the way momentum seems to be working in their favor.

For the first time, it looks like New York will come out on top against Tampa and they’ll likely do it over seven games of some of the best hockey fans desire leading up to the Stanley Cup Final.

If it’s anything shorter, it’ll be because Vasilevskiy continued to stay hot and the Islanders gave up too many power plays to the Lightning, but New York was one of the least penalized teams in the regular season.

If the offense doesn’t sputter, the Isles have their best chance at getting back to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1984, when they lost in five games to the Edmonton Oilers.

Schedule:

6/13- Game 1 NYI @ TBL 3 PM ET on NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/15- Game 2 NYI @ TBL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/17- Game 3 TBL @ NYI 8 PM ET on USA, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/19- Game 4 TBL @ NYI 8 PM ET on USA, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/21- Game 5 NYI @ TBL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS*

6/23- Game 6 TBL @ NYI 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS*

6/25- Game 7 NYI @ TBL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS*

*If necessary

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NHL Playoff Recaps

Tampa Bay One Step Closer To Repeating

The Tampa Bay Lightning claim the second spot in the Semi Finals after shutting out the Carolina Hurricanes at home. Andrei Vasilevskiy saved 29 shots and received quite the praise from Carolina coach, Rod Brind’Amor.

The Carolina Hurricanes biggest problem throughout the series was the amount of penalties they took. Their penalty was exposed by Tampa Bay. The Lightning struck 8 times on the power play through six games.

Brayden Point scored the first goal of the night on the power play. Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov were credited with the assists. Point leads the team in scoring with 8 goals.

Ross Colton, who spent quite some time with Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, Syracuse Crunch scored the game winning goal. This is his first career playoff run. Through 11 games he has scored 3 goals and tallied 1 assist. He is one of two players who was not on the Stanley Cup team last season.

Carolina won the division but what Tampa did not have was their not so secret weapon, Kucherov. He missed the regular season do to recovering from hip surgery. Hip surgery is something that takes quite some time to heal. We’ve seen players rush back after surgery and end up re-injured. While holding Kucherov out was also to circumvent the cap, it is also still very legal. Kucherov currently has 5 goals through the postseason.

The Carolina Hurricanes have had quite the playoff run these last few years. In 2019, Carolina made the playoffs for the first time in years and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. They were swept by the Boston Bruins and have yet to have a deep run since. They have the right pieces but have yet to find the best formulation for complete success.

Tampa Bay will go on to play the winner of the New York Islanders Boston Bruins series. New York could advance tonight unless Boston forces a game 7.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning strike twice in, 2-1, victory on the road in Game 1 against Hurricanes

It’s the perfect storm for meteorologists that also like hockey as the Tampa Bay Lightning took Game 1 on the road against the Carolina Hurricanes, 2-1, at PNC Arena on Sunday.

Barclay Goodrow scored the game-winning goal midway through the third period as Andrei Vasilevskiy (5-2, 2.41 goals-against average, .936 save percentage in seven games played) made 37 saves on 38 shots against in the win for Tampa.

Carolina netminder, Alex Nedeljkovic (4-3, 2.20 goals-against average, .923 save percentage in seven games played) stopped 28 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.

David Savard (upper body) was out of the lineup for the Lightning, while Nino Niederreiter (undisclosed) was not available for the Hurricanes in Game 1.

Rod Brind’Amour told reporters after Sunday’s game that Niederreiter might be out for the entire series against Tampa.

Meanwhile, these two clubs are meeting for the first time in a Stanley Cup Playoff series.

Midway through the opening frame, the Bolts botched a line change and had too many skaters on the ice, yielding a bench minor for exactly that– sending Pat Maroon to the box to serve the infraction– and presenting Carolina with the game’s first power play at 9:13 of the first period.

The Hurricanes, however, did not convert on the ensuing advantage.

Nor did the Canes find the back of the net on the following power play at 14:45 as Nikita Kucherov cut a rut to the penalty box for tripping Sebastian Aho.

After one period of action in Raleigh, the score remained tied, 0-0, while the Hurricanes outshot the Lightning, 15-12.

Carolina held the advantage in giveaways (3-2), while Tampa dominated in just about everything else, including blocked shots (4-3), hits (18-13) and faceoff win percentage (63-37).

Both teams had two takeaways each as the Lightning had yet to see time on the power play and the Hurricanes were 0/2.

Brock McGinn caught Mikhail Sergachev with a high stick to kickoff the second period with a power play for the Bolts at 6:56.

Late in the ensuing skater advantage, Victor Hedman sent a shot pass to Brayden Point (5) for the redirection through Nedeljkovic’s five-hole from point blank to give Tampa a, 1-0, lead at 8:15 of the second period.

Hedman (9) and Kucherov (9) notched the assists on Point’s power-play goal as the Bolts got on the board first.

Less than a minute later, Tampa was back on the power play as former Lightning forward, turned current Hurricanes player, Cedric Paquette, was penalized for interference at 8:56.

Tampa’s power play didn’t last long, however, as Kucherov cross checked McGinn at 10:11 and presented both teams with 46 seconds of 4-on-4 action before an abbreviated power play for Carolina.

Neither team managed to score on the ensuing special teams play and the Lightning got one more chance on the skater advantage late in the middle frame when Dougie Hamilton tripped Point at 15:06.

In the dying minute of the middle frame, Blake Coleman tripped Jordan Martinook and was sent to the box at 19:47 as a result.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Lightning led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite Carolina holding a, 26-21, advantage in shots on goal, including an, 11-9, advantage in the second period alone.

The Hurricanes led in blocked shots (14-9), takeaways (6-5) and giveaways (7-6) after two periods, while Tampa led in hits (32-23) and faceoff win% (55-45).

The Bolts were 1/3 and the Canes were 0/4 on the power play entering the second intermission.

Carolina started the final frame with 1:48 left on the power play and used all but about seven seconds of it to wire one into the back of the net.

Jake Bean played catch with Andrei Svechnikov as Svechnikov tossed the puck back to Bean (1) for the shot past Vasilevskiy’s blocker side while Jesper Fast acted as a screen in front of the net.

Svechnikov (3) and Fast (2) had the assists on Bean’s first career Stanley Cup Playoffs goal as the Hurricanes tied things up, 1-1, at 1:41 of the third period.

Midway through the period, Anthony Cirelli got a stick up high on Vincent Trocheck and was assessed a minor infraction at 8:04 of the third period.

Carolina couldn’t score on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Moments later, Goodrow (1) beat Nedeljkovic on the short side as the Canes netminder took his pad off the post to fall into the shot with his chest except the Bolts forward sent the puck low– beating Nedeljkovic and putting Tampa ahead, 2-1, at 12:39.

Coleman (3) had the only assist on Goodrow’s goal.

The Hurricanes tried to even things up– even after pulling Nedeljkovic for an extra skater with less than two minutes remaining in the game, but they couldn’t muster anything else past Vasilevskiy as the final horn sounded on the night.

Tampa had won, 2-1, and taken a 1-0 series lead despite being outshot by Carolina, 38-30, in total shots on goal, as well as, 12-9, in shots in the third period alone.

The Lightning wrapped up Sunday’s action leading in blocked shots (18-16) and hits (37-31), while the Hurricanes led in giveaways (12-7) and faceoff win% (53-47).

Both teams managed to score a power-play goal as the Bolts went 1/3 and the Canes went 1/5 on the skater advantage in Game 1.

The Lightning grabbed a 1-0 series lead as a result of stealing Game 1 on the road as the two clubs head into Game 2 on Tuesday night in Raleigh.

Puck drop at PNC Arena is expected to be around 7:30 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for coverage, while those in Canada can choose from SN or TVAS.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Bolts eliminate Panthers in Game 6 shutout at home, 4-0

The defending Stanley Cup champions are on their way to the Second Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs after shutting out the Florida Panthers, 4-0, on home ice at Amalie Arena on Wednesday.

That’s right, the Tampa Bay Lightning have emerged victorious in the “Battle of Florida” in six games (4-2) in what was Andrei Vasilevskiy’s first shutout the postseason, as well as the second of his career.

Vasilevskiy (4-2, 2.64 goals-against average, .929 save percentage in six games) turned aside all 29 shots that he faced in the shutout win for the Lightning.

Spencer Knight (1-1, 2.07 goals-against average, .933 save percentage in two games played) made 20 saves on 23 shots against in the loss for the Panthers.

Knight made his second straight start in net because, well, have you seen the other options Florida has in the crease?

Meanwhile, Barclay Goodrow returned to the lineup for Tampa– making his series debut in the process, while Luke Schenn was scratched.

Tyler Johnson raced to the puck to beat a looming icing call before sending a quick pass to the low slot where Pat Maroon (1) tapped the rubber biscuit behind Knight to make it, 1-0, Lightning at 6:16 of the first period.

Johnson (1) and Mikhail Sergachev (2) tallied the assists on Tampa’s first goal of the night– which, just like in Game 5, also happened to be on the first shot of the night for the Bolts.

Late in the period, Panthers defender, Brandon Montour hooked Brayden Point and presented the Lightning with a power play at 18:55 that would spill over into the middle frame.

After one period of action at Amalie Arena, Tampa led, 1-0, on the scoreboard– much to the pleasure of the home crowd– while both teams had eight shots on goal apiece.

Florida led in takeaways (2-0) and faceoff win percentage (69-31), while the Bolts led in giveaways (3-2) and hits (15-13) entering the first intermission.

Only the Lightning had seen any time on the power play and they were 0/1 heading into the middle frame.

Ryan McDonagh caught Aleksander Barkov with a high stick at 1:53 of the second period and presented Florida with a skater advantage as a result.

The Panthers couldn’t muster anything on the ensuing power play, however.

Midway through the middle frame, Sam Bennett was assessed a roughing infraction at 12:53.

This time, the Lightning made sure to capitalize on the resulting skater advantage as Steven Stamkos (3) sent a one-timer over Knight’s blocker after Nikita Kucherov worked a pass to Victor Hedman for the one touch pass to Stamkos for the power-play goal.

Hedman (8) and Kucherov (7) notched the assists as Tampa extended their lead to, 2-0, at 13:27 of the second period.

Less than a couple of minutes later, Sergachev cut a rut to the sin bin for cross checking Patric Hornqvist at 15:05. Florida did not score on the resulting power play.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Lightning led, 2-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing the Panthers in shots on goal, 19-15.

Florida held the advantage in shots on net in the second period alone, 11-7, and led in blocked shots (8-7) as well as faceoff win% (61-39). Meanwhile, Tampa held the lead in takeaways (5-3) and hits (25-21) as both teams managed to have four giveaways each entering the second intermission.

The Panthers were 0/2 and the Lightning were 1/2 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Late in the third period, Point (4) was patient with the puck as he crept into the slot whereby his patience paid off with a deke and a goal as Knight overcommitted and the Lightning took a, 3-0, lead as a result.

Kucherov (8) and Erik Cernak (3) had the assists on Point’s goal at 14:36.

With nothing left to lose, Panthers head coach, Joel Quenneville, pulled his netminder for an extra attacker with about four minutes left in the game.

Nevertheless, Tampa wired a shot into the back of the empty net as Alex Killorn (4) redirected a pass from Cernak for the extra insurance marker.

Cernak (4) and Stamkos (5) each recorded their second points of the night with the primary and secondary assists, respectively, as the Bolts grabbed a, 4-0, lead at 18:18 of the third period.

About a minute later, Frank Vatrano took out his frustration on Cernak with a slash at 19:35, presenting the Lightning with one more power play for the evening, though it would go by the wayside as the final horn sounded 25 seconds later.

Tampa sealed the deal on a, 4-0, shutout victory to win the series 4-2– eliminating the Panthers in the process, despite finishing the night trailing in shots on goal, 29-24.

Florida held the advantage in shots on in the third period alone (10-9) as well as faceoff win% (53-47), while the Lightning finished Wednesday night’s action leading in blocked shots (13-12) and hits (32-27).

Both teams managed to have five giveaways each, while the Panthers finished 0/2 on the skater advantage and the Bolts went 1/3 on the power play in Game 6.

With the series wrapped up in six games (4-2) for the Lightning on Wednesday, Tampa awaits the winner of the Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators series as their opponent in the Second Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Hurricanes lead their series with the Predators 3-2 and can wrap things up on the road in Nashville on Thursday.