MONTREAL — History was on the side of the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Montreal Canadiens continue to buck every rational trend. Josh Anderson scored twice including the game-winning goal and forced the Stanley Cup Final series to a Game 5 after a 3-2 overtime victory.
The Lightning opened Game 4 much like they did in Game 3. They peppered Montreal with shots on goal and led 8-0 in that department before Montreal finally registered their first shot just over eight minutes into the game.
Unlike in Game 3, Montreal’s Price made saves when needed and kept his team engaged in the game.
Tampa looked like they were ready to break out the brooms. But they went 0-for-5 on the power-play. That included a double minor that extended into overtime when Shea Weber went to the box for high-sticking Ondrej Palat.
“We’ve got to score goals, that’s the bottom line,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said after the game. “We put pressure on ourselves to produce. It doesn’t happen. We’re disappointed in that.”
Montreal’s penalty kill improved to a league-leading 91.4 percent during the postseason and it has been a big factor in their surprising run during the 2021 playoffs. That is weighing heavily on Tampa’s power play which performed at over 40 percent through the first two rounds of playoffs and 29 percent in round three before falling to 16.7 percent during the Final.
The Lightning finished the game with a 71 percent share in expected goals per website Natural Stat Trick. They erased two different one-goal deficits to force overtime.
But when they couldn’t beat Price, they were missing the net.
“Did I think we generated enough chances to score? I did,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “And they didn’t go in, sometimes that happens. Sometimes you play pretty good and it’s a break here or a break there that just doesn’t go your way and you have to fight through it.”
One of those opportunities came late in the third period when Nikita Kucherov’s back-door attempt with over three minutes left in regulation hit the post.
“What could we have done different? Probably not hit as many posts as we did,” Cooper said.
The Lightning still have a commanding 3-1 series lead going into Game 5 on Wednesday and much to Tampa mayor Jane Castor’s delight, they have a chance to close out a Cup win in front of over 16,000 fans at Amalie Arena.
It’s a pretty good position to be in for the defending Stanley Cup champions. They played well enough to win.
But they left the door open for the Canadiens, even if it’s just a small crack.
“Any fan of any team, if you gave them the option to win the Stanley Cup or you’ve got to take your chance at home, I think the fan base would have loved if we brought the Stanley Cup home tonight,” Cooper said.
NOTES: The Lightning fell to 0-4 in overtime during the 2021 playoffs. Two of those losses came in series-clinching games. The Lightning became the first team in the playoffs to lose a Game 4 with a chance to sweep in the 2021 playoffs.