The Lightning showed why they are the defending champions in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Final. Showcasing their dominating offensive game and strong defensive one, they soundly beat the Canadiens 5-1.
“I’ll make one thing clear: this is the National Hockey League with the best players in the world,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “And you can be beat on any night by any team. The players are that good. Consistency is the key. You have your plan, you stick with it and you consistently rock it. And if you do that, we like our chances in games, but it doesn’t guarantee results. And for us, we have found something that works for us.”
In a feisty game that saw a combined 115 hits and a bloodied Brendan Gallagher, Tampa Bay went up 2-0 on goals by Erik Cernak and Yanni Gourde. The goal was Cernak’s first career playoff goal as was Montreal’s Ben Chiarot’s second-period tally to cut the Bolts lead in half. In the third, Nikita Kucherov added to his NHL-best point total with two tallies — the first coming off a Chiarot attempt to swat the puck away from the front of the net with his hand and the second off a set faceoff play — and an assist. He is now at 30.
“That’s one of the best players in the world shooting that puck and coming off the faceoff circle like that,” said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. “We’ve seen that plenty of times so it was a huge goal for us … gave us some breathing room and he’s playing like a beast right now, and he’s so so good.
Stamkos added a power-play goal with under 70 seconds to go. It snapped the Canadiens mark of 32 straight killed penalties.
“Tonight maybe wasn’t our best game overall as a team,” noted Canadiens coach Luke Richardson. He has been filling in as head coach with Dominique Ducharme out. “But I think it’s going to be a challenge because they’re a deep team. … They’ve got a little bit of everything out there. So we’ve just got to be better. We know we can play better. And that’s a good point we’re going to key on and move forward to next game.”
The Canadiens line of Stanley Cup champ Tyler Toffoli and young studs Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield struggled all night. The trio was on the ice for three goals against.`
“You know what we have full confidence in our young players up front,” said Chiarot. “We wouldn’t be at this point of the playoffs if we didn’t have full confidence in them and what they can do in our own end. Of course, there’s matchups that we’d like to get, but that’s not a luxury that you have when you’re on the road. Saying that, we still believe in the guys that are going out there that they can get the job done.”
The Canadiens as a whole did not help out netminder Carey Price. He stopped 22 of 27 shots while his teammates only registered 19 total shots on net.
Tampa Bay may be with Alex Killorn for a bit. He blocked a shot in the second off the foot and left the game after one shift in the third. Cooper did not have an update postgame. Montreal was without Joel Armia who was released from COVID-19 protocols, skated in warmups but did not play.
Game 2 is scheduled for Wednesday.
Sporting News has all the action as the Lightning and Canadiens battle it out in the Stanley Cup Final (all times Eastern).
Lightning vs. Canadiens score, highlights from Game 1
Third period: Lightning 5, Canadiens 1
10:53 p.m. — PP GOAL. Steven Stamkos makes it 5-1.
10:52 p.m. — Two minutes to go and it’s a 5-on-4.
10:51 p.m. — Yeah, it’s been over a year since these two teams last met but there is no love lost — Kucherov got slashed pretty good — more roughing and Joel Edmundson is in the box giving Tampa Bay a 5-on-3. Lightning respond with five forwards on the power play.
10:49 p.m. — Jesperi Kotkaniemi gets two for high-sticking. Just over four minutes left and the Canadiens are now shorthanded.
10:45 p.m. — Five minutes left in regulation.
10:41 p.m. — A scrum in front of the Lightning goal and Brendan Gallagher comes up bloodied and blood gushing down his face. He was wrestling with a Lightning player and hit his head on the ice. Canadiens get a power play as Blake Coleman gets two for roughing.
10:36 p.m. — GOAL. Off the faceoff, Nikita Kucherov cuts to the high slot and buries it. Tampa Bay leads 4-1.
10:27 p.m. — The Eric/Erik’s — Eric Staal and Erik Cernak get roughing penalties so teams will skate 4-on-4.
10:19 p.m. — GOAL. The puck gets thrown on net and Ben Chiarot tries to bat it out of the way with his hand but knocks it in past Price. Nikita Kucherov credited with the goal. Tampa Bay leads 3-1.
10:16 p.m. — Final period begins.
Second period: Lightning 2, Canadiens 1
9:59 p.m. — Second period ends.
9:52 p.m. — GOAL. A point shot by Ben Chiarot ping-pongs off two Lightning players (Anthony Cirelli and then Ryan McDonagh) before getting past Vasilevskiy. Tampa Bay leads 2-1.
9:41 p.m. — After giving his stick to Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn lays his body on the line by blocking a big slapshot.
9:40 p.m. — Tyler Johnson streaks in and Carey Price with a monster stop as he can’t get it up and over the right pad.
9:28 p.m. — GOAL. Off a blocked shot, Blake Coleman fires the bouncing puck off Yanni Gourde and past Price. The goal came off a giveaway by Gallagher at the Lightning blue line. Tampa Bay leads 2-0.
9:25 p.m. — Carey Price robs Steven Stamkos’ shot from the right circle.
9:23 p.m. — PING! Puck gets past Vasilevskiy and hits the post.
9:20 p.m. — Middle frame begins.
First period: Lightning 1, Canadiens 0
9:02 p.m. — Period comes to an end. The Lightning will start the second period on the power play for 1:15.
8:59 p.m. — Now it’ll be Tampa Bay to the power play as Chiarot cross-checks Nikita Kucherov after a shot on goal. He gets two for roughing and the NHL’s best penalty kill (93.5 percent) goes to work. Oh, and the Lightning have the second-best power play (37.7 percent).
8:54 p.m. — Brendan Gallagher in the middle of things again. This time he draws a penalty as Barclay Goodrow cross-checks him to the head after Goodrow laid a clean hit. Montreal heads to the power play (20.9 percent effectiveness).
8:39 p.m — More pleasantries at the whistle after a big hit by Ben Chiarot. Brendan Gallagher in the mix in this one too.
8:35 p.m. — GOAL. Erik Cernak crashing the net with the redirect up and over the glove of Carey Price. Tampa Bay leads 1-0.
8:34 p.m. — NBCSN shows Brendan Gallagher and Shea Weber both stepped on pucks and went down during warmups. They’re okay and, well, hockey players are just like us. They also show Carey Price taking a puck up high during warmups. That’s a no-no during warmups; never aim up high on your own goalie.
8:33 p.m. — Is the scouting on Vasilevskiy to go high? Caufield and Toffoli both missed up high and another Caufield shot was blocked away by the upright goalie.
8:28 p.m. — The guys say hi to each other for the first time. The division rivals haven’t seen each other since March 5, 2020, when the Bolts won 4-0.
8:25 p.m. — Puck has been dropped on the Stanley Cup Final. Who will win it all? Stay tuned.
8:24 p.m. — Vincent Lecavalier, he of Lightning fame who also hails from Quebec, in attendance.
7:53 p.m. — Looks like Jake Evans is back in the lineup. He has been out since taking a hit from Mark Scheifele in Game 1 of the second round .
Canadiens line rushes:
So looks like Jake Evans IN, Joel Armia OUT
— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) June 28, 2021
7:50 p.m. — Joel Armia is on the ice for warmups but, per NBCSN, he did not take line rushes.
7:03 p.m. — These are quite some stats.
Stanley Cup 2021: Latest news