Nikita Kucherov scored twice in a three-point night and Brayden Point collected three assists to lead the host Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday to open the Stanley Cup Final.
Erik Cernak, Yanni Gourde and Steven Stamkos also scored, while goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 18 saves for the defending champions.
Game 2 of the series will be Wednesday, also in Tampa.
Ben Chiarot replied for the Canadiens, and goalie Carey Price made 22 saves.
“Yeah, it’s one game of a seven-game series,” Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry said. “So we have to use what we did [at the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Semifinals], that experience, that mindset to rebound and bounce back for Game 2. We’re going to watch some clips on what we can do better, and I think everybody knows that our effort is there, but I think that we can all bring a little bit more.”NHL
Lightning strike first
Cernak’s first career playoff goal broke the ice. After a Montreal turnover at the Tampa blue line, Cernak joined the rush, and his long redirect found the mark at the 6:19 mark.
Gourde doubled the edge early in the second period after another Montreal turnover. Blake Coleman grabbed a loose puck in the slot and fired a shot that ricocheted off Gourde at 5:47 of the middle frame. It was Gourde’s second goal in as many outings and third in four games.
Chiarot’s first career playoff goal put the visitors on the board late in the frame when his point shot banked off two Tampa players with 2:20 remaining in the second period, but he played a big part in Kucherov’s insurance goal two minutes into the third period. Chiarot blocked Kucherov’s long shot with his hand, but batted it into his own goal.
Kucherov netted his second goal past the midway point of the final frame with a more conventional goal, a top-corner shot, and then set up Stamkos’ power-play goal with 70 seconds remaining.
“You know not much I had to do, I was just trying to throw it on the net and see what happens,” Kucherov said. “Fortunately, it was a lucky bounce for us. I thought it was a Pally goal.”NHL
The man-advantage marker snapped Montreal’s perfect penalty kill run at 32, which dated back to the first round.
Tampa’s victory came at a cost. Forward Alex Killorn left the game after one shift in the third period. He blocked a shot with his foot late in the second period.
Montreal forward Joel Armia, who tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend and didn’t arrive in Tampa with the team, had a negative test on Monday and arrived in time for the warmup but didn’t play.
Jake Evans, out since suffering a concussion in the opener of the Winnipeg Jets series, played almost 12 minutes for the Canadiens. Montreal coach Dominique Ducharme remains away from the team due to his positive test. He’s expected back for Game 3.
–Field Level Media