The Lightning’s reunion with an old friend will have to wait.
The Stanley Cup visited Montreal’s Bell Centre on Monday night, but didn’t make an appearance.
And the difference between the Lightning traveling home to Tampa with the Cup in tow and coming home empty handed for a Game 5 truly was a matter of inches. Unable to sweep the Canadiens, the Lightning dropped Game 4 in overtime, 3-2.
The Lightning’s frustration was compounded by a series of pings off the goal post. The hockey gods weren’t friendly.
“What could we have done different?” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Probably not hit as many posts as we hit. The puck’s been going in for us, and tonight it didn’t. Do I think we generated enough chances to score? I did, and they didn’t go in and sometimes that happens.”
It was a frustrating night for the Lightning, especially on the power play, which went 0-for-5 and is now just 2-for-12 against the Canadiens’ top-ranked penalty kill unit.
The Lightning received goals from unlikely sources, getting tying scores from Pat Maroon and Barclay Goodrow, who have combined for just four goals this postseason.
But Tampa Bay’s big guns had some painful misfires. On the Lightning’s first power play of the night, Brayden Point’s wrister hit the goalpost with 25 seconds left in the first period.
Victor Hedman had a great look from the point on a second-period power play. The puck deflected off Montreal goaltender Carey Price’s blocker and ricocheted off the left post.
Inside Amalie Arena, where 16,061 fans gathered to watch what they hoped would be a clincher, the crowd jumped to its feet thinking Hedman’s shot was a goal, only to be disappointed.
And in the third period, Ryan McDonagh pinpointed a cross-ice pass to Nikita Kucherov positioned in front of the right post that he clanked off iron.
“Sometimes you play pretty good and, and it’s a break here, a break there that just doesn’t go your way and you have to keep fighting through it and, in the end, they got a break,” Cooper said. “And we couldn’t find the back of the net. So no hanging our heads, but I like a lot of things we did (Monday night).”
After the Canadiens killed a four-minute Lightning power play, Josh Anderson scored the winning goal 3:57 into the extra session. The Lightning went into overtime on the power play for the first 2:59 after Shea Weber’s high stick late in the third bloodied forward Ondrej Palat’s face, resulting in a four-minute double minor.
Price stoned the Lightning in that session, making four of his 34 saves on that power play. Montreal charged the net in the following minute, with Anderson coming from behind the left post and making a diving swing at a loose puck past Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
“That’s one of the big reasons why they’re here,” Hedman said of a Canadiens’ penalty kill that is operating at a 91.6 percent success rate in the postseason. “So hockey is one of those sports where sometimes we’re relying on your PK and they got a four-minute kill and got momentum to score right after.”
Maroon scored a tying goal with 6:12 remaining, taking a feed from Mathieu Joseph — who perfectly placed a pass in front of the crease — and flicking in into the net past Price.
Joseph, who didn’t play a single game in the playoff bubble last year, has stepped into the lineup because of an injury to Alex Killorn and has two assists in three Cup final games.
Joseph collected a loose puck at his own blue line, skated free through the neutral zone, and with Montreal defenseman Alexander Romanov diving in front of him, he led Maroon to the near post with a cross-slot pass.
Montreal seemed to take over momentum in the second period, but Goodrow’s goal with 2:40 to play tied it at 1, essentially giving the Lightning one period to win the Cup.
McDonagh made two incredible plays on the sequence. He prevented the Canadiens from getting the puck out of their zone, intercepting a pass above the left circle, tipping it on one bounce to Blake Coleman on the right side.
As Coleman put the puck on net, McDonagh raced to the net and corralled the rebound with a backchecker blanketing him, then fed Goodrow trailing through the slot with a behind-the-back pass. Price committed to McDonagh and had no chance, and Goodrow had a wide-open net for the tying goal.
The Lightning, who are 13-0 over the past two postseasons after a loss, will now regroup for the opportunity to raise the Cup on home ice Wednesday.
“They’re a very good team, they’re here for a reason and you know their backs were against the wall and they gave it a push,” Goodrow said. “So this game’s over with. We’re focused on Game 5 and recharge the batteries.”
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