Montreal is no push over and that showed tonight. The Canadiens deserved to win Game 2. They skated faster, checked harder, and out-chanced the Lightning for a majority of the game. On the flip side, the Lightning had a poor performance. Their passing was off, they bobbled the puck a ton, and had way too many turnovers. However, in large part due to Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Lightning were fortunate to be able to skate away with a win.
It was clear from the very start the the Canadiens were going to play much better in Game 2. They were fast through the neutral zone and were good on the forecheck. This really disrupted Tampa Bay’s ability to exit the D-zone cleanly. This lead to tons of chances and large amounts of zone time for Montreal. Nick Suzuki had a glorious opportunity early on a breakaway and was stoned by vasilevskiy. The Lightning on the other hand, could not get their game going. The pressure caused by Montreal was a factor however the Bolts just seemed off their game. Tampa wasn’t quick or as hard on pucks as they needed. Despite this, a big test would come late in the first. Shortly after Eric Cernak and Paul Byron were each called for minors at 17:27, Ryan McDonagh would get tagged for a double-minor high-sticking penalty. Trying to bat the puck out of the air, he whiffed and caught Phillip Danult in the face drawing blood.
4-on-3’s are extremely dangerous because of all the open space. However, the Lightning were able to defend well and kept Montreal to the outside, eliminating the one-timer option. Although they would have almost a full two minutes into the second, the Lightning were fortunate to get out of the first period in a scoreless tie.
Fortunate end to a Rough Second
After getting through over a 1:40 of carry-over penalty time to start the second, Tampa still had trouble getting back to their game. Montreal played one of their best periods of the postseason. However it was the Lightning who would strike first. In large part to Tyler Johnson who was able to protect the puck and bring it around the net, he was then able to feed it to Anthony Cirelli. The Montreal forwards were down low in order to help disrupt Tampa’s forecheck. However this left Cirelli with time and space to send an seeing eye shot that found its way through Carey Price. Undeserving of the scoreline Montreal would continue to push. They would total 16 shots in the second period and one would finally find its way through Vasilevskiy. Charot would send a shot off the stick of McDonagh sending it by Vasilevskiy. The Lightning would go 13-plus minutes without a shot in the second period.
The Canadiens would continue to work in the Lightning zone but made a critical error with seconds remaining in the second period. Danault turned the puck over in the neutral zone and Barclay Goodrow was able to make a chip-around move to create a 2-on-1. Just like in the Boston series last year Blake Coleman scored a spectacular diving goal. This one came with .03 seconds left to play in the second. Ryan McDonagh said in his postgame presser “We caught a bit of a break, which allowed us to regroup for the third”. The Bolts were very fortunate to go into the locker room with a 2-1 lead.
In Line with what McDonagh said, the Lightning did come out and the third period and play better. Although it was not the usual (and dominate) third period performance many have become accustomed to, it was much better than the first and second period. They spent more time in the Montreal end which result in more chances and more shots. Again the Canadiens made a critical error that would seal their fate. Joel Edmundson sent a blind pass that would come right to the stick of Ondrej Palat who tapped it in. From there on out, there was no doubt that the Lightning would escape with a fortunate win.
Vassy was Stellar.
If there was any doubt about who was the best goaltender in the world, it was put to rest tonight. Vasilevskiy was unreal. He stopped 42 Montreal shots. This was the second most saves he has made in a postseason regulation win in his career. He showed everyone why the Veizna voters got it wrong. Vasilevskiy made a number of extremely diffucult saves, including multiple deflections. He has not had to steal many games in the postseason, but he definitely stole one tonight. Vasilevskiy was the sole reason why the Lightning now have a two series lead. As Coach Jon Cooper said “Vassy is on almost every night”.
It wasn’t all bad for the Lightning. Some big time players came up with some big time plays at key times. Despite al the turnovers, they were able to man up well in their own zone. However, they will have to play much better in Montreal if they hope to skate away with a 3-0 series lead on Friday. Tampa Bay will need to manage the puck better, avoid turnovers and work on cleaner breakouts.
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