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Bolts 1 win away from repeating as champions after game 3 win

The Stanley Cup Final shifted north of the border to Montreal for game 3 on Friday night. The Tampa Bay Lightning entered the game with a 2-0 series lead, taking both home games at Amalie Arena. The Montreal Canadiens were playing in their first SCF game since 1993. Tampa Bay was once again without top line forward Alex Killorn and Mathieu Joseph filled the roster spot for the second game in a row.

Fast start, defense provides offense

Jan Rutta got game 3 started with a bang for the Bolts. Just 1:52 into the game, Rutta took a pass from Ondrej Palat off a Montreal turnover and fired home a shot into the top corner behind Habs netminder Carey Price.

The game’s first power play was awarded to the Lightning just 1:02 later when Eric Staal was whistled for delay of game. The Tampa Bay power play wasted no time in getting to work. After passing the puck around to create some looks, Victor Hedman blasted home the second goal of the game from center point at 3:27. Bolts defensemen entered game 3 with only 4 total goals in the 2021 playoffs. With this goal, Hedman became the first player in league history to score a goal in all 12 calendar months, thanks to COVID-19 related scheduling changes.

The first media timeout of the period seemed to bring energy and a spark to the Canadiens. Minutes later, they were on the board. Phillip Danault sped into the Lightning zone with Brendan Gallagher 2 on 1. Danault held and ripped a wrist shot off the post and into the net to cut the Bolts’ lead to 2-1.

Momentum swung back in Tampa Bay’s direction a bit before a late period penalty at 17:29. Mikhail Sergachev went to the box for interference, sending  Montreal to its first power play. The Habs generated a couple of shots, but the Lightning successfully killed the penalty and lead 2-1 after 20 minutes.

Second period begins with more fast strikes

The Lightning got right to work quickly again after the first intermission. In the opening minutes of the period, Erik Cernak caught Montreal in the midst of a slow moving line change. Cernak fed a stretch pass to Palat who was streaking into the zone uncontested with Nikita Kucherov. Palat dished a last second pass to his right and Kucherov tapped in an easy backhand goal past Carey Price.

Tyler Johnson then decided that he would get in on the scoring just 1:53 later. After a Mathieu Joseph shot was turned aside by Price, a fortunate rebound ended up in front of the net. Johnson converted a backhand shot to put Tampa Bay up 4-1.

But much like the first period, Montreal did have an answer. And that answer came in the form of Nick Suzuki. Suzuki streaked up right wing from his own zone and fired a hard angle wrist shot past Andre Vasilevskiy with 1:56 to go in the period. After 40 minutes, Tampa Bay held a 4-2 lead.

The Lightning maintained that 2 goal lead until just under 5 minutes to play in the game. In a tremendous individual effort, Tyler Johnson fired a wrist shot on Price, found his own rebound, and chipped the puck in with his backhand to increase the Bolts’ lead to 5-2.

But, the Habs just would not go away. 39 seconds later in an empty net/extra staker situation, Corey Perry found a tough angle to Vasilevskiy’s left and fired it in over the Tampa Bay goalie’s shoulder.

Price would find his way back to the bench again, but this time Tampa Bay shut the door for good. Blake Coleman added an empty net goal to the stat sheet, and the Lightning took game 3 by the score of 6-3.

Next up:

The Bolts and Habs square off again on Monday night in game 4. Tampa Bay currently holds a 3-0 series lead and is 1 win away from a repeat as Stanley Cup Champions.

3 stars:

  1. Tyler Johnson – 2 goals
  2. Ondrej Palat – 2 assistas
  3. Victor Hedman – 1 goal, 1 assist

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