The Stanley Cup will be in attendance at the Bell Centre for Game 4. The Montreal Canadiens are hoping they won’t have to watch it handed back to the defending-champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tyler Johnson scored twice, and Tampa defeated Montreal 6-3 on Friday to take a 3-0 stranglehold in the best-of-seven final. The Lightning can clinch their second straight Cup and third in franchise history in Monday’s Game 4.
Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman had a goal and an assist each, Jan Rutta and Blake Coleman also scored, while Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 32 shots for the Lightning, who also won the Cup in 2004.
Phillip Danault, Nick Suzuki and Corey Perry replied for the underdog Canadiens, who got 24 saves from Carey Price.
“Kind of like the whole season, we’ve been underdogs,” Danault said of a team that entered the playoffs with the worst record of the 16 qualifiers.
“We didn’t quit the whole year, no matter what was being said. And I can guarantee that nobody on the team is going to quit now.”
Head coach Dominique Ducharme was back behind Montreal’s bench for the first time since a positive COVID-19 test on June 18, but it made little difference in Game 3.
Tampa Bay is now in position to join Pittsburgh (2016 and ’17) in becoming just the second team to win consecutive titles since 1999. The Lightning also have an opportunity to complete the first sweep in the final since Detroit beat Washington in 1998.
In NHL playoff history, only four teams have rallied to win a series after losing the first three games, with Toronto the only one to do so in the final in beating Detroit to win the Cup in 1942. The Los Angeles Kings were the last team to overcome a 3-0 series deficit by beating San Jose in a 2014 first-round series. The 1975 New York Islanders and 2010 Philadelphia Flyers also accomplished the feat.
“We’re in a hole, it’s pretty obvious,” Habs forward Brendan Gallagher said. “But we can promise one thing: we won’t give up.”
The Canadiens are the latest team to attempt to end Canada’s 28-year Stanley Cup drought. Montreal was the last Canadian team to hoist the iconic trophy when they won their 24th Cup back in 1993.
Until this year, Montreal had not made the Cup final since their last title. Vancouver (twice), Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa advanced the final series over that time, but were unable to bring the Cup back north of the border.
The Stanley Cup final is making its debut at the Bell Centre. The Habs still called the old Montreal Forum home when they won the cup in ’93.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2021.
The Canadian Press