TAMPA, Florida -- The Montreal Canadiens suffered the most crushing of losses Wednesday night when Tyler Johnson's buzzer-beater gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 3-0 series lead. Instead of rolling over, however, the Habs came out like monsters out of a cage Thursday night and pummeled the home team 6-2 to avoid the sweep and keep their season alive.
HOW IT HAPPENED: Um, anyone see this coming?a
After losing all eight games they played versus the Lightning this season, the Canadiens poured it on in finally beating the Bolts. A season's worth of frustration, perhaps. The team’s leaders all had strong nights, Andrei Markovand Max Pacioretty scoring first-period goals before David Desharnais, Jeff Petry and Brendan Gallagher piled on with second-period goals, as the Canadiens raced out to a 5-0 lead.
Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, who had stopped 100 of 104 shots in this series entering Game 4, was pulled after Desharnais’ goal made it 3-0 at 5:08 into the second period, a weak one that popped in and out of Desharnais' catching glove. Bishop gave up three goals on 14 shots. But I would suggest that coach Jon Cooper also made the goalie change because he wanted to wake up his team, who for the second night in a row played a mediocre game. This time, however, it cost them.
WHAT IT MEANS: Two pertinent things about this lopsided victory for the Canadiens: First, they finally beat Tampa and don’t have go into the offseason having the Lightning’s perfect record against them hanging over their heads. Second, to bounce back with this kind of effort less than 24 hours after a crippling, heart-shattering loss with 1.1 seconds to go in the third period tells you about the character they have in the dressing room. That kind of loss, and especially to go down 3-0 in the series because of it, would have seen many a team wilt and take a knee the following night.
Also of note as we pack our bags and find our way back to Montreal, the Lightning have to be concerned with how they played in back-to-back home games. They’re still obviously in a great position to win this series, but their lackluster play over these two games is really a head-scratcher.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Max Pacioretty -- The Habs' star winger collected a goal and two assists, and his first-period tally was short-handed. He was flying all night and easily played his best game of the playoffs.
STAT OF THE GAME: Petry’s second-period goal was on the power play. I repeat, the Habs scored a power-play goal! They entered the game an abysmal 1-for-28 on the power play in these playoffs. It wasn’t a lucky goal, either -- the Canadiens moved the puck around very well before Petry hammered it home.
WHAT’S NEXT: Game 5 goes Saturday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal, the Habs hoping the best crowd in the NHL can help them avoid elimination for a second straight game.
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