Unstoppable Lightning take 3-0 series lead over Canadiens; one more win from Stanley Cup

Jul 2, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) defends the net against Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) during the first period in game three of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Lightning appear unstoppable as they are just one more win from repeating as Stanley Cup Champions.

Tyler Johnson scored twice while Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman both collected one goal and one assist to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 6-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday that puts them one win away from sweeping the Stanley Cup Final.

Jan Rutta and Blake Coleman also scored, and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 32 saves for the defending champion Lightning.

Phillip Danault, Nick Suzuki and Corey Perry replied for the Canadiens, whose coach Dominique Ducharme was behind the bench for the first time since leaving early in the third round to battle COVID-19. Goalie Carey Price stopped 24 shots.

The Canadiens must win Game 4 on Monday in Montreal or the Lightning will claim their second consecutive Stanley Cup and third title in franchise history.

The last Stanley Cup Final sweep was in 1998 when the Detroit Red Wings beat the Washington Capitals. The Canadiens were last swept in a final in 1952 by Detroit.

Lightning strike early and often

lightning canadiens final
Jul 2, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9) scores against Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) during the third period in game three of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Amid the emotion of the Canadiens returning home, the Lightning struck early with a pair of goals 95 seconds apart. Rutta’s long wrist shot opened the scoring at the 1:52 mark, the first ever NHL goal scored in July. Hedman’s power-play goal, a blast from the point at 3:27, doubled the lead.

“I can definitely play better,” Habs goalie Carey Price said. “It’s just not good enough so far.”

Danault’s first goal of the playoffs, a perfect bank shot off the near post at 11:16, gave the hosts a much-needed jolt, but the second period told the same tale as the first.

Taking advantage of a bad Montreal line change, Kucherov converted a two-on-none with Ondrej Palat at 1:40 of the middle frame. The goal gave Kucherov his 127th career playoff point, which put him ahead of Maurice Richard and tied with Yvan Cournoyer, Luc Robitaille and Patrick Marleau for 48th on the NHL’s all-time list.

“We have a game plan and everybody’s buying in and everybody’s doing their job,” Kucherov said. “And when everybody’s doing their job, it makes it easier. And we want to play a full 60 minutes the right way, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”

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Johnson’s tally 113 seconds later, a converted rebound after Mathieu Joseph was denied on an odd-man rush, extended the Tampa Bay lead.

Suzuki made it a 4-2 game with 1:56 left in the second period when he slid a sharp-angled shot past Vasilevskiy, but Johnson buried his own rebound for his second of the night with 4:41 left in regulation.

Perry scored 39 seconds later while Montreal had the goalie pulled, but Coleman replied with an empty-netter with 3:12 on the clock to round out the scoring.

–Field Level Media