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NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-3-15 Lightning at Canadiens

When the levees broke...

Eastern Conference Semifinals
Game Two

TB-6
MTL-2

Tampa Bay Leads the Series 2-0

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 29 shots for the victory. As in Game One, he held the Lightning in the game early in the First Period long enough for them to gain their equilibrium and eventually trounce the Habs.

First Period
7:20 MTL Petry (1), (Mitchell, Prust)
19:36 TB Filppula (2), (Hedman, Killorn)(PP)

Second Period
8:06 TB Stamkos (1), (Garrison, Coburn)
12:29 TB Kucherov (2), (Johnson, Stamkos)(PP)
19:46 TB Hedman (1), (Killorn, Filppula)(PP)

Third Period
6:37 TB Kucherov (3), (Johnson, Stamkos)(PP)
11:06 MTL Gilbert (2), (Emelin, Smith-Pelly)
16:05 TB Brown (1), (Filppula, Boyle)

Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Alex Killorn were the game's three stars.

That, folks, was one of the most satisfying playoff victories in Lightning history. The team, again, struggled to get any momentum to start the First Period with a combination of early penalties, poor passing, and faceoff impotence costing them possession. Again, though, they weathered that storm fairly well, only falling down 1-0, before Filppula's semi-soft power play goal toward the end of the frame. Montreal absolutely outplayed Tampa Bay in the First Period, and just like in Game One they absolutely blew their opportunity to land a knockout punch early. What happened thereafter was the stuff of stories and legends.

You see, the Lightning had already removed one item from their to-do list on Filppula's PP goal, but they proceeded to get everything knocked off from there. Stamkos scored on a very strong breakaway move on a nice long pass from Garrison to get that monkey off his back. Kucherov got a pair of PP goals to underline that the floodgates have indeed opened for him after Game One. His 2 goals, along with a Hedman PP tally, formed a chain of 4 goals on 4 consecutive PP shots for the Lightning as the absolutely embarrassed Carey Price, the NHL's presumptive MVP. To rub salt in the wound, the Lightning got the equivalent of a human victory cigar in the form of J.T. Brown scoring a tip in goal.

Teams that take a 2-0 lead on the road to start a series have an 80% chance of moving on, historically. I like those odds. I like the idea of avenging what happened last season even more. The Lightning have a chance to show the same cold blooded lack of mercy Montreal showed them last year in Game Three when the scene turned north after Tampa Bay fell behind 0-2 on the road. A quick goal by the Tampa Bay Lightning early in Game Three may lead to Montreal's resolve evaporating altogether. Time to step on their throats, Tampa Bay Lightning. Remember, the playoffs are a war of attrition. Advance as quickly as you can. Stay as healthy as you can. Conserve as much energy as you can. Let the other two teams kill each other in a long battle in the other Semifinal. Lay in wait for the Eastern Conference Finals. The opportunity for that scenario to play out is sitting there for the taking for the Lightning, starting with a strong opening 10 minutes at home in Game Three.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 5-2-15

Ontario Hockey League
Western Conference Finals

West-1 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 3 @ West-2 Erie Otters 7
Erie wins best-of-7 series, 4-2

D Anthony DeAngelo, SOO: 0-1-1, -2, 4 PIM
Playoff Totals: 13 GP, 0-16-16, +12, 18 PIM
With SSM: 26 GP, 15-36-51, +33, 51 PIM
With Sarnia: 29 GP, 10-28-38, +1, 64 PIM
Season totals: 55 GP, 25-64-89, +34, 115 PIM
2013-14 totals: 51 GP, 15-56-71, -34, 90 PIM

Erie completed the upset of top-seeded Sault Ste. Marie, winning 7-3 Saturday night to take the Wayne Gretzky Trophy. The Otters, who were led by Connor McDavid’s goal and five points, will face the winner of Oshawa and North Bay in the Finals. OHL Rookie-of-the-Year Alex DeBrincat had a hat trick for Erie in the game. Lightning prospect Anthony DeAngelo’s remarkable season and junior career came to an end. He’s signed to an NHL contract and will turn pro next season. He took a bad roughing penalty in the second period after Erie’s Nick Betz tried to complete a play after a whistle, sliding the puck at the Soo’s goalie. DeAngelo went after Betz, but couldn’t get to him in the scrum. DeAngelo circled the pile after the scrum seemed to be over and shoved another player to the ice. The commentators gushed about DeAngelo most of the game, but mentioned the fine line he rides between playing with emotion and letting his emotions get the best of him. That will likely be Rob Zettler’s challenge next season for the Syracuse Crunch.

NHL Playoff Game Night: 5-1-15 Lightning at Canadiens

A game you could argue the Lightning won three times. Wish it counted as three wins.

Eastern Conference Semifinals
Game One

TB-2
MTL-1 (2OT)

Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 44 shots for the victory. That 1 goal he allowed was a terrible, world class softie that would've been a huge blemish on an otherwise amazing performance had the Lightning lost this game in OT. Fortunately, they got the winner they needed to erase the bad taste of that goal away, and although soft goals are still inexcusable it's important to note than Ben Bishop absolutely was the Lightning's best player tonight.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
2:34 TB Johnson (7), (Carle, Sustr)
14:47 MTL Pacioretty (3), (Subban, Gilbert)

First Overtime
NO SCORING

Second Overtime
2:06 TB Kucherov (1), (Filppula)

Nikita Kucherov and Ben Bishop were the game's first and third stars. The Lightning finally got Kucherov on the board and hopefully they can get Stamkos and the PP, not necessarily in that order, out of the ditch and on the scoreboard in Game Two as well.

The Lightning played a nearly perfect road game and fought hard through a lot of adversity to put them in excellent position to start this series. As could be expected, they came out flat as a pancake after an emotional Game Seven victory on Wednesday and they had to ride some really sharp goaltending and the good graces of two strikes off of Ben's left post to survive Montreal's early surge. After about 10-12 minutes of hanging on for dear life, though, the Lightning settled down and started playing Lightning hockey. True, Montreal ended up taking the shot totals by about a 4:3 margin in the game, but the Lightning had the puck more, which is certainly more in line with the Lightning's style of play than what we saw in the Detroit series. Eventually, the Lightning manufactured what appeared to be the game winning goal on a Tyler Johnson deflection of a Carle point shot and the Lightning settled into Third Period lead protection mode. And, let me tell you, it's been shocking to see how good the Lightning have looked the last two games protecting a 1-0 lead in the Third Period. They've grown a lot in that department. That was the first time they won the game.

Then the Bishop softie happened. It's inexcusable. It's gut wrenching. It's the kind of thing that can destroy a team's morale. Credit to the Lightning though, in that they showed a lot of maturity by not hanging their heads as the game headed into Overtime. Then, in the First Overtime, Nikita Kucherov scored a breakaway goal that in any situation other than in OT in a playoff game against one of the NHL's darling franchises would've stood. Absolutely. No question in my mind. By the specter of dubious refereeing in Montreal reared its ugly head again as the goal was waved off under the guise that Kucherov pushed Price into the net. I could probably show you 100 goals exactly like that in the last decade that have stood up. That was the second time they won the game.

But, the refs decided they should play on. And play on they did when a Montreal turnover led to a quick pass to the slot for a quick release by Kucherov that beat Price for the winning goal. That was the third time they won the game, and the one that actually counted. In retrospect, I just wish the game counted as three wins for all the heavy lifting they had to do to get it.

Of course, there's a lot of controversy on the zone entry on the play that became the winner, with still shots being waved by the Canadian media showing Filppula as offside. The video, however, shows the play was less cut and dry, but still very close. It's really a case of Montreal trying to beat the wrap on a technicality, though, considering they got puck possession and had an easy opportunity to clear that they choked away. It's also karmatic justice considering how many times Tampa Bay has been shafted by the referees in games against Montreal over the past two seasons. No tears should be shed for the Habs, regardless of how much the northern hockey media tries to frame this as a tainted win.

Moving on to Game Two, the Lightning find themselves in the envious position of playing with house money on the road. They've accomplished what they need to stealing home ice to start the series. Now they've got a chance to really put the Habs behind the eight ball before heading home to Tampa Bay. It would behoove them to do so and shorten the series, because as we all know playoff hockey is both a marathon and a war of attrition. The fewer games you can play to get to 16 wins, the less energy you have to expend and the fewer opportunities you have to get players injured. So the message should be clear: seize the opportunity now and try to put Montreal away sooner rather than later.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 5-1-15

Western Hockey League
Eastern Conference Finals

East-2 Calgary Hitmen 2 @ East-1 Brandon Wheat Kings 8
Brandon wins best-of-7 series, 4-1

D Ben Thomas, CAL: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM
Playoff totals: 17 GP, 0-4-4, -5, 2 PIM
Season totals: 60 GP, 7-24-31, +16, 28 PIM
2013-14 totals: 72 GP, 7-24-31, +11, 39 PIM

Brandon scored eight goals for the second straight game, sending the Hitmen to the golf course by winning the series, 4-1. The Wheat Kings will play the winner of Kelowna and Portland in the WHL finals. That series is currently tied at two games apiece. This ends the season of Ben Thomas, who still has another year of juniors to play before being up for contract consideration. He didn’t put up many numbers in the postseason after a solid regular season. He was getting solid minutes for Calgary in their run to the Eastern Conference Finals.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 4-30-2015

Ontario Hockey League
Western Conference Finals

West-2 Erie Otters 2 @ West-1 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 4
Erie leads best-of-7 series, 3-2

D Anthony DeAngelo, SOO: 0-1-1, E, 2 PIM
Playoff Totals: 12 GP, 0-15-15, +14, 14 PIM
With SSM: 26 GP, 15-36-51, +33, 51 PIM
With Sarnia: 29 GP, 10-28-38, +1, 64 PIM
Season totals: 55 GP, 25-64-89, +34, 115 PIM
2013-14 totals: 51 GP, 15-56-71, -34, 90 PIM

The Greyhounds forced a Game 6 with a close-fought, 4-2 win at home Thursday night. The Soo outshot Erie 28-13 through two periods, but the score was 1-1 entering the final frame. The teams traded goals before Bryan Moore scored at 12:55 to give the Soo a 3-2 lead. They added an empty net shorthanded goal with DeAngelo in the box for delay of game in the final minute. DeAngelo had his first assist in his last four games played. Game 6 is Saturday in Erie.

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