Lightning put Canadiens on brink of Stanley Cup sweep with Game 3 win

The quick-strike Tampa Lightning struck for two early second-period goals to build a 4-2 lead over the Montreal Canadiens entering the third period Friday night in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson scored on early odd-man rushes 1:53 apart for the defending champion Lightning, who have a 2-0 series lead. The second-period outburst resembled how Tampa Bay opened the first, when Jan Rutta and Victor Hedman scored 1:35 apart less than 3 1/2-minutes in.

With Montreal down 4-1, Nick Suzuki scored with 1:56 left in the period on a shot from the right circle that appeared to surprise goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in getting beat through the legs. Phillip Danault also scored for Montreal in the first period in the first Stanley Cup Final game in Montreal since the Canadiens won their 24th title in Game 5 against the Wayne Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings on June 9, 1993.

The Lightning have scored the first goal in each of the three games of a series in which the Canadiens have yet to hold a lead.

Kucherov scored 1:40 into the second period after Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak caught the Canadiens sleeping on a line change. From deep in his own zone, Cernak sent a pass intended for Ondrej Palat at Montreal’s blue line. Palat chased down the puck at the left circle and fed Kucherov, who flipped it in the open right side.

Johnson scored on a 2-on-1 break and after Montreal goalie Carey Price got his blocker up to stop Mathieu Joseph’s shot from the left circle. The rebound caromed off Joseph’s skate and directly to Johnson who backhanded it into the open right side.

Kucherov and Heman have a goal and assist each, and Palat has two assists.

Vasilevskiy has stopped 23 of 25 shots, and Price has stopped 17 of 21.

The Canadiens welcomed back interim head coach Dominique Ducharme. He returned after 14 days in mandatory quarantine following a positive COVID-19 test.

Ducharme was forced into making a quick decision by spending Montreal’s timeout to stem the Lightning’s momentum and allow the Canadiens to regroup after allowing two goals on five shots.

The Lightning were without forward Alex Killorn, who missed his second game with an undisclosed injury.

The game was the NHL’s first played in the month of July, a year after playing its first games in August.

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