Montreal made quick work of their opening round series with a 4-3 victory on Tuesday night over the Lightning. Max Pacioretty scored the series winning power play goal with 43 seconds reaming in the game.
“We ended the season with confidence, we’ve played good hockey the last six or seven weeks, since the Olympic break,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. “Confidence is a big factor. Our team was confident in the way we were playing, the team believes in the way we play, so we start games with the intention of winning.
“If you look all the games in the playoffs, it was always us that dictated the play, we were the more aggressive team in terms of scoring chances and shots. We were well prepared and played with a lot of confidence.”
It looked early like Montreal would cruise to the series sweep. Daniel Briere and Lars Eller found the net in the first period giving the Habs a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Ondrej Palat scored for the second straight game, giving Tampa Bay momentum at the 4:32 mark of the second period. The happiness was short lived when Brandan Gallagher’s snap shot found the net 70 seconds later. Seeing his team back down by two goals John Copper made a switch in net.
Tampa Bay showed they were not ready to quit with a furious pace in the third period. Victor Hedman scored early in the final frame on when he banked the shot off Carey Price. The Lightning struck again as Tyler Johnson scored tying the game with over half the third period left.
“It’s been well-documented what this team has gone through this year,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “It’s been a transition year for us in an unbelievably positive way. I think we had 12 players make their NHL playoff debuts in this series. I’m sure that’s somewhat unheard of.
“But the big thing was I said if we were going to go down, we were going to go down swinging. I thought we went down swinging.”
The Lightning picked up the period throwing a game high 10 shots towards Price. Costly penalties down the stretch cost the Lightning from extending the series.
“I thought we played really well the whole series,” said Price. “There were breaks around each game that could have gone the other way. That team is a good hockey team over there. I just thought we got the majority of the breaks.
Montreal will get a long rest as they become the first team to advance to the next round. They await the winner of the Boston/Detroit series and it may be as long as a week before that series is settled.
“We’ll be well prepared, I can tell you that,” Therrien said. “As far as I’m concerned, we won the series but we haven’t accomplished what we set out to accomplish. For me this was a step, and we have another step to take.”
For the Lightning it is wait ’til next year again.
“Ultimately our goal was that we wanted to make the playoffs and we did that,” Cooper said. “But we wanted to make sure that Tampa Bay Lightning fans, wherever they may be, were proud of their team, because I sure as [heck] was proud of our team. They made me a better person and a better coach and I couldn’t have been more proud to coach that team.”