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Stanley Cup Reset: A Look at the 2021 Stanley Cup
The 2021 Stanley Cup Final has been a one-sided affair so far. The Tampa Bay Lightning won each of the first three games and can eliminate the Montreal Canadiens with a win Monday night.
After their dramatic Game Seven win against the New York Islanders to advance to the Cup Final, Tampa Bay came out of the gates firing in Game One. Defenseman Erik Cernak scored his first goal of the playoffs just over six minutes into regulation.
Tampa Bay pushed the lead to 2-0 on Yanni Gourde’s sixth goal of the playoffs. However, Ben Chiarot answered for Montreal, cutting the lead to 2-1, entering the third.
After that, it was all Tampa Bay. Nikita Kucherov scored twice and assisted on Steven Stamkos’ power-play goal in the third period to win the game 5-1. Stamkos’ goal snapped a streak of 30 consecutive successful penalty kills for Montreal.
The Canadiens looked like a completely different team in Game Two than they did two nights before. Hoping to tie things up before returning to Montreal for Games Three and Four, the Habs dialed up the offensive intensity, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
However, that extra offensive focus led to a few breakdowns defensively. After a scoreless first period, Anthony Cirelli broke the deadlock 6:40 into the second period on a shot that Carey Price would normally stop, beating him to the blocker side.
Nick Suzuki scored a power-play goal to tie the game 1-1, but Tampa Bay scored a goal that took all the wind out of Montreal’s sails as Blake Coleman scored on a diving, one-handed shot with less than two seconds remaining in the period.
Montreal managed to outshoot Tampa Bay 43-23 for the game, but they couldn’t get another goal on the board. Ondrej Palat scored late in the third to seal the deal for a 3-1 win.
One of the biggest differences between Games Two and Three was the dramatic drop in crowd size. Tampa Bay had roughly 18,600 in attendance at each of the first two games, but due to COVID-19 regulations, Montreal was only permitted to have 3,500 in the building. While there is some debate over how many people were actually allowed in, it was still noticeably emptier than at Amelie Arena.
The Canadiens requested rule changes to allow 10,500 in the stands for Game Four, but that request was denied.
With a less hostile crowd to contend with, the Lightning did what they do best, jumping out to an early lead and not letting go. Cernak and Victor Hedman each scored a goal in the first period (Hedman’s was on the power play). With that goal, Hedman became the first player in NHL history to score a goal in all 12 calendar months.
Former Columbus Blue Jacket David Savard continued his strong playoff run, assisting on Tyler Johnson’s second-period goal for his fourth of the playoffs.
While Montreal showed some signs of life, getting goals from Phillip Danault and Corey Perry, it was too little, too late as Tampa Bay won 6-3.
Game Four will be played Monday night in Montreal, with an 8:00 P.M. Eastern puck drop. Expect a massive effort from the Canadiens to avoid elimination on home ice, while Tampa Bay looks to win their second consecutive Stanley Cup.
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