NHL Monday NBC Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning at the Montreal Canadiens.
Tampa Bay has the opportunity to become the first team since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup in a four-game sweep. They play at Montreal in Game 4 on NBC at 8:08 PM ET.
The Lightning took Game 3 by a 6-3 score. Tampa Bay got on the board at the 1:52 minute mark of the first period on a goal from Jan Rutta. They are 15-2 in these playoffs when scoring first. The Canadiens are 11-2 when they score first in the postseason, but they are 1-6 when their opponent scores first.
Victor Hedman made it a 2-0 lead for the Lightning just over a minute and a half later with a power-play goal. Phillip Danault got Montreal on the scoreboard at 11:16 of the first period. Nikita Kucherov gave Tampa Bay a 3-1 lead at 1:40 of the second period. Tyler Johnson gave the Lightning a three-goal lead just under two minutes later. Nick Suzuki pulled the Canadiens to within two goals with his score at 18:04 of the second period. Tyler Johnson extended Tampa Bay’s lead to three goals, with his goal at 15:19 of the third period. Corey Perry scored the third goal for Montreal at 15:58 of the final period. Blake Coleman added an empty netter at 16:38 to cement the 6-3 victory for the Lightning.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 32 of the 35 shots he faced. Vasilevskiy has a .948 save percentage in this series with 92 saves on the 97 shots he has faced. The runner-up to Marc-Andre Fleury for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the top goaltender of the season, has a 15-6 record in the postseason, with a 1.94 goals-against-average, a .938 save percentage, and four shutouts. He had a 31-10-1 record in the regular season, with a 2.21 goals-against-average and a .925 save percentage. Vasilevskiy previously won the Vezina Trophy in 2019.
The Lightning have won four straight games and seven of their last nine. They aspire to become the eighth team in NHL history to win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. Tampa Bay won their first Stanley Cup in the 2003-04 season before winning the title again last season. The Pittsburgh Penguins are the only team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups in the salary cap era when they repeated as champions in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. They are 15-6 in this postseason, but two of their losses were in series-clinching games. The Lightning lost Game 5 in their opening-round series against Florida before losing Game 6 in the semifinals with the New York Islanders.
Brayden Point leads the NHL with 14 goals in the postseason. Kucherov leads the league with 32 points in the playoffs coming from eight goals and 24 assists. Steven Stamkos and Hedman are third on the team with 18 points.
Carey Price stopped 24 of the 29 shots he faced on Friday. The 2015 Vezina Trophy winner has a 12-8 record in the playoffs this season, with a 2.36 goals-against-average and a .921 save percentage. He has allowed 13 goals on the 79 shots he has faced in this series for a .835 save percentage.
Montreal outshot Tampa Bay by a 35-29 margin in Game 3, after outshooting the Lightning, 43-23, in Game 2. Suzuki leads the Canadiens with seven goals and 15 points in the playoffs. Tyler Toffoli has 14 points coming from five goals and nine assists. Cole Caufield and Corey Perry both have nine points, tied for third-most on the team.
Montreal defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in six games to reach the Stanley Cup finals. The Canadiens opened their postseason run by defeating the heavily-favored Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games. Montreal then swept Winnipeg in four games in the North Division finals before upsetting Vegas in six games. The Canadiens have won 11 of their last 16 games since trailing the Maple Leafs, 3-1, in that first-round series. They have won the Stanley Cup championship 22 times. They last won the Cup in 1993 in their most recent appearance in the finals.
After the Canadiens’ streak of 13 straight games without allowing a power-play goal ended in Game 1 on Monday, Montreal stopped all three of Tampa Bay’s three chances with the man advantage in Game 2. In Game 3, the Lightning were on the power play just once, and they did score from the Hedman goal. The Canadiens have thwarted 35 of the last 37 power plays they have defended. The Lightning have scored 22 power plays in the playoffs with a 36.7% success rate from their 60 opportunities with the man advantage. They have scored twice in their seven power plays in the Stanley Cup finals.
The Canadiens got their head coach back on the bench for Game 3 with Dominique Ducharme cleared from COVID quarantine. Left wing Tomas Tatar remains questionable with the injury that kept him sidelined since Game 5 of the opening-round series with Toronto.
Alex Killorn is questionable for Tampa Bay after not playing on Friday from the lower-body injury he incurred from taking a shot from the Canadiens’ Jeff Petry in the second period in Game 1. He usually plays on the second line with Steven Stamkos and Anthony Cirelli, and he plays on the power play and power play kill units.
DraftKings lists Tampa Bay as a -150 money line road favorite for Game 4, with the total set at 5.
Computer prediction: Montreal Canadiens 3 Tampa Bay Lightning 1