The Tampa Bay Lightning are now one win away from winning the Stanley Cup for the second year in a row. It was a dominant performance in Game 3 as the Lightning defeated the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 6-3 to go up 3-0 in the series. The Lightning were led by Tyler Johnson, who scored twice. Johnson turned back the clocks in Game 3 against Montreal. Head coach Jon Cooper made an important adjustment that will we get into later that led to Johnson having success. But the Lightning played their best game of the series as they look to close out the series in Game 4 Monday night.
Tyler Johnson Has Big Night For The Lightning
The Lightning were dominant from the word go. Again like they have done so many times this postseason, Tampa Bay capitalized on turnovers. The Canadiens just can ill afford to do these things against a good team like the Lightning. Of the Lightning 14 goals scored in the series, the last five have been off of Montreal turnovers or mistakes. Jan Rutta opened the scoring 1:52 into the first period. After the Canadiens iced the puck, they just could not get the puck out of the zone. Josh Anderson had a chance but failed. Victor Hedman gets the puck over to Ondrej Palat, who finds a wide-open Rutta on the right point. Rutta shoots and it gets by Carey Price. When that goal went in you knew it was going to be a long night for Montreal.
Then Corey Perry takes a penalty and the Lightning capitalize right away. Hedman scores from the point and it was already 2-0 Lightning before you could even blink. Dominique Ducharme called a time out to settle his team down. Considering this was the first Stanely Cup Final game in Montreal since 1993, the team was a bit edgy. The Canadiens rallied and put pressure on Andrei Vasilevskiy and finally beat him clean when Phillip Danault scored his first goal of the playoffs. Montreal was right back in the game as the Bell Centre was rocking heading into the intermission.
Just like in the first period, the Lightning stroke early and often to break the game wide open. Again the goals came off Montreal mistakes. 1:48 into the period, Nikita Kucherov got his eighth of the playoffs and his playoff leading 31st point. The Canadiens made a poor line change and the Lightning made them pay. Erik Cernak sees the Canadiens changing gets the puck up to Palat who slides it over to Kucherov and past Price for a 3-1 Lightning lead.
Then Tyler Johnson gets his first of the series set up by a beautiful breakout play where all five Lightning players touch the puck. Johnson starts the play in his own zone and finishes the play in the opposite zone. Mathieu Joseph comes in on Price takes a shot, Joseph gets his own rebound and gets it over to Johnson who buries it for a 4-1 Lightning lead. Johnson was flying out there as Jon Cooper moved him from the wing to the centre position and it paid major dividends in Game 3. Again the Canadiens found momentum at the end of the period when Nick Suzuki scored to cut the Lightning lead to 4-2.
The scoring slowed down in the third period. The Canadiens were trying to work their way back into the game. They had chances on Vasilevskiy, but he shut the door. Then off another Montreal turnover, the Lightning struck. Joel Edmundsson tried to make a pass through the neutral zone but it was intercepted by Tyler Johnson. Johnson skated into the zone, took a shot on Price, got his own rebound and recorded his second goal of the night. It was a great effort by a player showing the Lightning’s never-quit attitude. At that point, the Lightning made it 5-2. Corey Perry scored to make it 5-3 when the Canadiens pulled Price for the extra attackers. But it was all she wrote when Blake Coleman scored into the empty net to make it 6-3.
Outlook to Game 4
Entering the series everyone knew the Lightning were the better team. Now they are on the cusp of winning back-to-back Stanley Cups as they have a chance to sweep Montreal on Monday night. The Lightning know the fourth win is the toughest and Montreal will bring their best game so the Stanley Cup is not won on that night.
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