MONTREAL, QC — Four minutes of hockey made all the difference in the Tampa Bay Lightning's thrilling Game 3 road win in Montreal on Friday night.
The Bolts scored in the first two minutes of both the first and second period, giving them a lead they would never relinquish to take a commanding 3-0 Stanley Cup Final lead over the Canadians.
Tyler Johnson scored two in the contest, with Nikita Kurcherov, Victor Hedman, Jan Rutta and Blake Coleman rounding out the scoring for the Bolts. Meanwhile, Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 31 stops in net.
A sweep for the Lightning would be their third ever in the postseason.
Regardless of a sweep or not, if the Lightning do win it all, they'd become just the fourth team in the last 31 years to repeat as champions.
Game 4 will also be in Montreal and puck drop is scheduled for Monday at 8 p.m. ET.
Here's how Game 3 played out:
The Bolts win!!!
Empty netter. Blake Coleman.
Bolts lead 6-3.
Within five minutes of the previous update, both teams score. Tyler Johnson gets his second to put the Bolts up 5-2, then Corey Perry immediately answers for the Canadiens to make it 5-3.
More than half the 3rd period has ticked away and still no goals. It remains 4-2.
The puck has dropped on the third period with the Bolts leading by two.
Much like the 1st period, the Lightning have quieted down after their two early goals, and the Canadiens were able to get one on the board. Nick Suzuki scores for Montreal.
As the 2nd period comes to an end, the Lightning lead 4-2.
Another Lightning goal, this time by Tyler Johnson. In each of the first two period, the Lightning have put up two goals within the first four minutes.
It's 4-1 Lightning.
Nikita Kucherov scores early in the 2nd period to extend the Bolts' lead to 3-1! Still plenty of hockey left in the 2nd period as the Lightning have scored in the first two minutes in each period of Game 3.
The puck has dropped and 2nd period action is underway!
The 1st period comes to an end with the Lightning holding on to a 2-1 lead.
The Lightning kill the Sergachev interference penalty as time winds down in the 1st period.
Mikhail Sergachev goes to the penalty box for interference. Montreal gets a two-minute man advantage. It remains 2-1 in the 1st period.
The Canadiens get on the board. Phillip Denault scored for Montreal 11:16 into the 1st period and it's now 2-1.
The Lightning went on a power play right after the Rutta goal, and again wasting no time, score their second goal of the game. Victor Hedman with the goal.
The Lightning waste no time getting on the scoreboard with an early Jan Rutta goal. It's 1-0 in the 1st period.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are hard to beat when they score first this postseason.
The Lightning upped their record to 14-2 when scoring the opening goal, and have yet to trail in taking a 2-0 lead over the Montreal Canadiens in their Stanley Cup Final series.
While game one was complete domination, the Lightning players will admit Montreal was probably the better team in game two.
"We didn't play nearly good enough," defenseman Mikhail Sergachev said. "Still found a way to win, but we obviously have to be better and find a way to play a full 60 (minutes)."
Head coach Jon Cooper said, "Our team game, we know we can be better. If you've watched us play you know we can be better. I said this last night, but part of it was what Montreal was doing. They have a say in how we're playing."
Fortunately for the Bolts, Andrei Vasilevskiy was the best player on the ice with 42 saves. It was the second most saves he has made in a postseason game.
"I don't think you need the perfect shot right now in this situation," Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said. "You got to stick to what works and that's doing the right things. Obviously, he's a really special goaltender and someone who is really hot right now so we have to keep finding ways to get it past him."
Easier said than done.
Montreal has scored two goals in the series and both goals were kind of fluky. In game one, the puck pinballed off three players before finding the back of the net. Then, in game two, Ryan McDonagh whiffed in front of the net and the puck scooted through Vasy's five-hole.
The Bolts will now head across the border and return to the bubble-like environment they have dealt with for most of the year.
"It's crazy we're back in it again, but it's something we're most definitely comfortable with. We spent 65 days in a hotel last playoffs and we played in front of no fans so we're comfortable with that situation," Cooper said.
The Canadiens petitioned for 10,500 fans inside the Bell Centre, but the request was declined. Two days after playing in front of 17,166 fans at AMALIE Arena, it is back down to 3,500 fans.
It does look like Quartier des Spectacles will have a boatload of fans outside, though.
Alex Killorn will not take the ice for Game 3. Killorn did travel with the team.
Tyler Johnson and Ross Colton are also a bit banged up.
The puck drops at 8 p.m. from Montreal. The Lightning have never lost a series when leading 2-0. Also, teams leading 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals win 90 percent of the time.
With a win Friday, the Lightning would be one game away from sweeping the Canadiens and winning their second consecutive Stanley Cup.
MOST MEMORABLE PLAYOFF GOALS
Blake Coleman's diving goal with 1.1 seconds left in the 2nd period will forever go down in Lightning lore. There are spectacular playoff performances, like Ruslan Fedotenko in game 7 of 2004, than there are unbelievable goals where out mouths drop to the floor. Here is a tiny list featuring some of the most memorable goals in Lightning playoff history.
Brian Bellows - Conference Quarterfinals against Philadelphia (Game 3 in 1996)
Martin St. Louis - Conference Quarterfinals against Washington (Game 6 in 2003)
Gives Lightning first series win.
Martin St. Louis - Stanley Cup Finals against Calgary (Game 6 in 2004)
*This is my personal choice for the greatest goal in Lightning history*
Tyler Johnson - Second Round against Montreal (Game 3 in 2015)
Alex Killorn - Stanley Cup Finals (Game 1 in 2015)
Brayden Point - Second Round (Game 4 - 2018)
Nikita Kucherov - Eastern Conference Finals (Game 2 - 2020)
Steven Stamkos - Stanley Cup Finals (Game 3 - 2020)
Blake Coleman - Stanley Cup Finals (Game 2 - 2021)
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