Bolts take strong first step in win over Montreal

by Gary Shelton on June 29, 2021

in general

Kucherov had two goals and an assist./CARMEN MANDATO

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

Calm down. Take a deep breath. Don't get ahead of yourself.

It isn't time to find the confetti yet. It isn't time to plan the boat parade. The Tampa Bay Lightning took an impressive first step in the finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs Monday night, but there is more to do.

On the other hand: the Bolts were impressive.

Tampa Bay pounded Montreal, 5-1, in the opening game of the championship series and, in doing so, looked like a complete team hungry to finish the journey. The Bolts dominated Montreal in almost every category to gain and early edge in the series.

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-- It got two goals and an assist from Nikita Kucherov, who is leading the post-season in points. For the second straight year, he has more than 30, a feat shared by only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messi and Jari Kurri.

-- The defense gave up only 19 shots, no more than seven in any period. The Canadiens scored only on a shot that deflected off of two Bolts. Andrei Vasilevskiy won his 13th game of the post-season.

-- And if Kucherov and Vasilevskiy deserve consideration for the Conn Smith Award, well, consider Brayden Point as well. He had three assists.

-- The Bolts added a power play goal from Steven Stamkos, ending a 32-in-a-row streak for the Montreal power play.

In all, it was the perfect script for the Bolts.

“For the most part, we try to concentrate on ourselves," Stamkos said. "We know the quality of opponent that we have. They’re going to get their looks. They’re a great team. They’re here for a reason.

"We have a game plan. We have a recipe. We believe if we go out there and do the right things that we’re going to get rewarded for it. We got pucks in deep. We worked our forecheck. We worked our cycle. When we’re on top of our game like that, we’re a tough team to beat."

The Lightning also got goals from Erik Cernak and Yanni Gourde.

The Bolts took a 2-0 lead, but Montreal scored late in the second period. Perhaps that made you think of the comeback the New York Islanders had in Game Six of the semifinals. Not this time. The Bolts kept up their attack.

"That’s the key," Stamkos said. "We’ve learned from past mistakes when we’ve sat back a little bit. I thought for that second period, not counting the last five minutes, we had a really great period. We let them get back in the game a little bit. We have a one-goal lead going into the third period, just like we did the other night. We said 'Let's attack. Let’s keep the pressure on.' I thought we did a really good job of that."

Kucherov's first goal was knocked into the net by Montreal's Ben Chiarot, but his second was a shot after face-off for a clean goal.

“It’s uplifting to see what guys fight through," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "You  have to do that if you want to have any chance to win. He’s doing that and he was rewarded for it tonight. It’s finals time and everyone is playing banged up."

Said Stamkos: “That’s one of the best players in the world shooting that puck. Coming off the face-off circle like that, we’ve seen that plenty of times. That was a huge goal for us. he’s playing like a beast right now."

The Bolts are home at Amalie Arena again on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. when they try to take a 2-0 lead in the series.

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