Game 1 Lessons: Canadiens vs. Lightning

The Lightning weathered a Canadiens' storm early on and now own a series lead thanks to Nikita Kucherov. Check out the best plays from Game 1.

Following each game of the Lightning-Canadiens series, Eric Engels will be providing his post-game takeaways for sportsnet.ca. Follow him on Twitter @ericengels

Bishop answers biggest question
The biggest question coming into Game 1 was how Ben Bishop was going to hold up under the Bell Centre pressure.

He started off the game a little jittery as David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty both struck the iron in the first period. He lost the puck in his feet several times too, as Montreal scrambled to knock rebounds by him.

Then Bishop settled in nicely in the second. His save on Tomas Plekanec robbed the Canadiens of a short-handed goal, and sent a clear statement to his team that he had found his comfort zone.

“Pretty lucky save, to be honest,” said Bishop modestly.


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Coach Jon Cooper begged to differ.

“He brought the two-pad stack back into style with that save on Plekanec,” said Cooper after the game. “That’s an unreal save. That’s a game-changer right there.”

Ironically, the goal that got by Bishop with just 5:13 to play in the third period was the one you expected to really change the game.

With the Lightning ahead 1-0, Pacioretty came down the left wing and shot a puck from 35 feet out that went right through Bishop’s glove.

The fact that he was able to keep his composure after the goal was astounding.

“That went in, I skated over to him and said, ‘Geez, screw it!’ and he was just nodding his head,” said Tampa Bay forward Brian Boyle. “You could tell he was fine.”

Bishop was better than fine. He rebounded incredibly, stopping the next 17-straight shots.

“I didn’t really bother me that much,” Bishop said of the Pacioretty goal. “I felt like I was playing pretty well. You’d like to have it back. You know, I played baseball for a lot of years so it’s kinda disappointing, but the guys did a good job of responding.”

Offside on the winning goal burns Montreal
As Boyle skated over the blue-line, roughly 1:20 into the second overtime, Valtteri Filppula was a foot offside.

“Those things are not supposed to happen," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "I thought our players and our team had a great effort tonight. I can’t ask for a better effort, but to lose a game because of an offside....Offside—it’s black or white, and it was clearly an offside. [We] ended up losing the game.”

Earlier, the Lightning kept their cool after Kucherov knocked in his own rebound when Carey Price stopped him on a breakaway in the first overtime. Officials ruled that Kucherov had pushed Price’s pad into the net, therefore he had no chance to recover on the play.

Here’s the NHL’s explanation on why the goal was called back.

Cooper said in his post-game comments that he had no issue with the call. Then again, his team ended up winning the game.

Puck-moving goalies
In a game where only three goals were scored on 77 shots, the goaltenders managed to distinguish themselves in more way than one.

Price is considered by many to be the best puck-moving goaltender in the NHL. His skill in this department is always on display, and Friday’s game was no exception as he kick-started the Montreal rush on several occasions.

Bishop is unheralded in this facet of the game, but he has a knack for moving the puck efficiently too, and it’s a very relevant factor against a Montreal team that likes to play chip and chase hockey.

Just over a minute into the third period, the Canadiens cleared the zone on the penalty kill and Bishop interjected to push the play right back up ice for Tampa to sustain pressure. Sure enough it led to the game’s opening goal from Tyler Johnson, who now has seven in the post-season and is in sole possession of the playoff scoring lead.

“(Playing the puck) is something I’ve been doing for a long time,” said Bishop. “(I) felt pretty comfortable out there playing it.”

That’s why it was so important for Montreal to manage the puck well and keep it away from Bishop.

The Canadiens pushed a lot of chip-ins to the zone out of Bishop’s reach, and they had an easier time retrieving the puck and generating the cycle because of it.

It’s a big part of the reason they were able to shift the possession game in their favour.

The Lightning controlled 53.3 per cent of the shot attempts at 5-on-5 this season, whereas the Canadiens were a meager 48.4 per cent by comparison.

In Game 1, Montreal led shot attempts in all situations 82-75, outshooting Tampa 44-33.

“If you want to know why both of these teams had 50 wins [in the regular season] there’s a big reason; they’re both sitting in the blue paint of each net,” said Cooper.

Bold statement from Subban
P.K. Subban lets his play on the ice do most of the talking. He played 37:53, had an assist, and was among Montreal’s best players at both ends of the ice.

“We did everything right, except win the hockey game. If we keep playing like that, we’ll win the series,” said Subban.

That’s his prerogative. From up here in the press box, I believe a few more goals will have to be part of Montreal’s equation for Subban’s prophecy to ring true.