What was thought to be a decisive goalie battle turned out to be a dominant performance due to the constant rushes by the Lightning offense. The unique 2021 Stanley Cup Final got underway Monday night between the Bolts and Montreal Canadiens. Scrums were a plenty, and blood would be shed in a physical tilt by both defenses. Constant crashing of the net proved to be viable for the Bolts as they won Game 1 in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.
Offense from defense
As the puck dropped to begin the game it was clear a defensive battle would arise. With only 5 minutes gone by the total combined shots on goal was 7. Tampa had a solid rebound opportunity to open up the scoring, but the Canadiens defense answered. Bolts however strike first from an unsuspecting goal scorer. For just the 4th time a defensemen scores for Tampa in this year’s playoffs. Erik Cernak tipped in a shot from Ondrej Palat that slipped past Carey Price for the 1-0 lead. Afterwards, the Bolts offense kept the foot on the gas pedal keeping the pressure on the Montreal defense. However Tampa was unable to add to their lead as Montreal’s stellar defense was on full display. While there was not a lot of scoring to be had, the hits kept piling up which is what fans want to see in a Final game.
With just over 4 minutes to go in the period the first penalty of the game was assessed. Barclay Goodrow hits Brendan Gallagher into the boards, but proceeds to cross-check him after applying the hit. It was not a smart play to do and the penalty kill went to work. Fortunately for the Bolts the Habs power play could not get anything going thus allowing Tampa to kill the penalty with ease without giving up a shot. With under a minute to go Tampa received their first power play of the night. Ben Chiarot is called for roughing and the best penalty kill unit in the playoffs look to prove why they are so dominant. The odd man rushes given up by the Montreal defense however ended up biting them as the game went on.
Rushes to the net equals success
Montreal remained stellar on the penalty kill despite the Lightning nearly scoring when the penalty expired. Soon after, Montreal nearly tied the game but the puck changed direction and hit off the post away from Andrei Vasilevskiy. Afterwards, Steven Stamkos took advantage of a turnover but Price made a nice high glove save to keep the game 1-0. Another turnover occurred by Montreal and this time the Lightning would make them pay. Coleman took a pass from Barclay Goodrow, shot the puck on net, and Gourde tipped it in for the 2-0 lead.
Shea Weber had a good scoring chance after a miscue by the Tampa defense but Vasy denied him the goal. Hedman lost his stick and the Canadiens looked to get on the board following that play. Alex Killorn then sacrificed his body to block the puck preventing the scoring opportunity. Killorn was in pain for a bit after blocking the shot but would not miss any ice time. Late in the period Montreal finally finds the answer they were looking for. Chiarot slapped the shot on net and took a deflection off a Tampa defender. The puck then went past Vasy to cut the lead 2-1. Constant rushes to the net is what gave the Lightning scoring opportunities the entire night and they looked to continue with that in the 3rd period.
Scrums, blood, and goals
What looked like back and forth battle to start the period ended up with an unusual goal for the Lightning. Chiarot knocked the puck out of midair, but unfortunately for him Palat was waiting in front of the net. Palat scored with ease and gave the Bolts a 3-1 lead early in the period. Eric Staal and Cernak were called for rouging and for the first time tonight 4-on-4 hockey was played. The Palat goal was later awarded to Kucherov instead. The penalties then expired with no damage done as the game remained 3-1. Any chance the Canadiens had at scoring was stopped by Vasy and Tampa played more of a conservative game to try and preserve the lead. With just over 8 minutes to go Nikita Kucherov blasted the puck off the face-off that went past Price with ease to extend the lead 4-1.
Gallagher cross-checked Mikhail Sergachev who did not take kindly to the hit. A scrum ensued and Coleman ripped the helmet off Gallagher’s head before Sergachev wrestled him to the ice. Coleman was sent to the box for ripping off the helmet, and Gallagher went off the ice to get cleaned up as his head area was bleeding. Bolts killed off the penalty and looked to seal the victory. Following a check by Cernak, Jesperi Kotkaniemi went to the box for high-sticking in retaliation to the hit. Tampa received another power play after Joel Edmundson is booked for roughing. Kucherov rushes past the Habs defense with ease and then fed Stamkos the puck. Stamkos then buried the slap shot to extend the lead 5-1. Lightning ended the Canadiens’ streak at 32 killed penalties and take the 1-0 series lead.
Three stars of the night
Nikita Kucherov – 2 goals 1 assist
Brayden Point – 3 assists
Erik Cernak – 1 goal
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