Every shot and second counts for Tampa Bay

TAMPA, Florida – It was a cute idea, really. This idea that as the final seconds passed and the game lingered in the neutral zone, the middle period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final would, quite simply, end with the score still tied but the Montreal Canadiens in control. A puck, however – it can do wonderful things when handled by wonders, and Lightning winger Barclay Goodrow pushed it past one Montreal defender, then maneuvered it past another. to make a backhand pass through the lunge, then there was no time until there was just enough.

Smoke billowed from behind Canadiens goalie Carey Price, the crowd at Arena Amalie screamed and screamed, and the man whose dive sent the puck into the net headed for the boards. Two years ago Blake Coleman scored one of the most incredible goals in recent NHL annals, but that effort – a potential game winner, with 1.1 seconds left in a period, in the Stanley Cup Finals – made it so picturesque.

After their 3-1 win on Wednesday, the Lightning led the series to the best-of-seven by two games to zero, despite being outplayed and dominated for long stretches as the Canadiens couldn’t get out of the game. ‘a period that ended until it was’ t. Game 3 will take place Friday night in Montreal.

“A little puck management there,” said interim coach Luke Richardson.

Plus, the Grand Canyon is a big hole in the ground. That same term – puck management – had dominated the consciousness of the Canadiens for nearly 48 hours, since a 5-1 opening loss in the series that exploited their recklessness. They bounced back to handle the puck well for nearly 39 minutes and 55 seconds on Wednesday, until it slipped out near the Tampa Bay offensive blue line. Goodrow passed him past Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot, and as he skated around him, off the Lightning bench, Goodrow heard his teammates yell, “Shoot! To pull!”

Goodrow and Coleman joined the squad a week apart in February 2020, in deals that cost the Lightning what amounted to three first-round picks, a big expense for the last six forwards. When reminded Wednesday night that GM Julien BriseBois had absorbed a bit of criticism for the trades, coach Jon Cooper laughed and said, “A little?”

Goodrow and Coleman clicked as teammates, meshing with center Yanni Gourde, to embody this new incarnation of the Lightning, a team with a lot of speed and skill, yes, but also grunt and a defensive identity.

“They are one piece of the puzzle,” Cooper said, “but they were the last piece.”

He praised the sense of opportunity of both players.

Knowing that time was running out – less than 4 seconds remained – Goodrow weighed his options. If he could just slip the puck to a Coleman in the middle of the streak, he thought, it was their best hope to score.

“He probably had a better chance of getting in,” Goodrow said, “than of getting from where I was.”

Even with Coleman draped by Phillip Danault, backchecking with fury. As the puck whistled, Coleman felt he should rush – “just kind of a jerk, really” – and his outstretched stick pushed him inside the nearby post, just before Price slipped. Before the time was added, the instrument panel was showing three tenths of a second remaining.

“I don’t think anyone is trying to dive on the ice there, but at that point, that was all we had,” Coleman said. “I don’t know why these goals are happening.”

Goals, as plural. He specializes in goals he shouldn’t score, from the near-facsimile against Boston in last season’s playoff bubble to the one-handed reliever while falling as a member of the Devils against Winnipeg in one play. comparable to college at the University of Miami in Ohio vs. West Michigan.

“Literally, in my head, I’m like, ‘Did he just do this again?’ Cooper said. “A little different scenarios, but it was remarkably similar. Just the timing was epic.

The roar of the Tampa Bay fans was deafening, almost as loud as the long, true chants: “Vasy! Go ahead ! Go ahead ! They echoed not after Vasilevskiy thwarted the Canadiens’ first breakaway of the first period, or their second, or the tight backhand, or after one of his 42 saves, but before the puck was released and the American and Canadian anthems be sung.

Price was dominated in the playoffs by only Vasilevskiy, who punctuated all three playoff games in the series – against the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes and Islanders – with shutouts. He only gave up two goals, one in each game, against Montreal.

“I try not to think too much during games,” said Vasilevskiy, when asked about the duel with Price. “Whatever happens, whether it’s won or lost, I’m just trying to play my best game.”

Their best game on Wednesday night frustrated the Canadiens, who regrouped after their poor performance in Game 1, when they looked not like the team that went wild in the playoffs, but every opponent that they won: disjointed and bewildered, reckless with the puck and unstructured without it. On second thought, and they had a day off Tuesday to sift through the trash, Canadians got hold of the notion of simplicity. As in, keep doing what they’ve been doing – just do it better and with more gusto.

Instead of defending uncontrollable rushes, Canadians created them. They sprang from breakaways, sprayed gunfire from all angles and entered the once impermeable space in front of Vasilevskiy. They also couldn’t score, at least not until 10 minutes 36 seconds per second, when Nick Suzuki dribbled in a backhand lunge that appeared to deflect at least one Lightning player.

It evened the score and it stayed that way for most of the second period, but not the entire time.

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