The Montreal Canadiens dominated game one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs from a possession and shot perspective, but could not put the Tampa Bay Lightning to bed until late in the first overtime period.
The Habs stormed the Lightning zone throughout the first period, outshooting their opponent 14-4 in the opening frame, but found themselves tied at one apiece. Nikita Kucherov opened the scoring midway through the period when he was left alone in the slot and he made no mistake snapping the puck between the legs of Carey Price.
The Habs did not dominate the second frame in the same way, but held an advantage in play, and outshot their host 8-7. Once again the teams traded goals, with super sniper Steven Stamkos putting the Lightning ahead after an end to end rush, and Brian Gionta answering for the Canadiens with a shorthanded effort.
Two minutes later the game was tied up for the third time, when Alex Killorn one timed a Tyler Johnson pass and beat Price from a tight angle. A great back-check by Thomas Vanek led to the Canadiens fourth goal. Vanek stripped the puck from the Lightning in the Habs zone and headed the other way, with David Desharnair carrying the puck. Desharnais hit Vanek with a pinpoint pass at the top of the crease, and a sniper like Vanek was not going to miss that opportunity to give the Habe a 4-3 lead.
Stamkos was not done yet, as he tapped in a beautiful pass from Killorn off the rush, and tied the game once again, with 6:33 to play in the third period. The goal would send the two teams to overtime in the first game of their series.
Price struggled through regulation, allowing four goals on 16 shots. With Ben Bishop injured for the Lightning, and Anders Lindback in goal, Montreal was supposed to have a huge advantage in goal. However, through 60 minutes Lindback was the best goaltender on the ice, as the Habs dominated play but could not pull ahead of Tampa Bay.
Once overtime came, Price finally found his game. For the first time all night he looked square to the shots he was facing, and prepared to make a save. He juggled rebounds and could not seem to find loose pucks all night until overtime began. In the extra frame, the Price we saw all season emerged, and allowed the Habs a chance to win the game.
Perhaps the unlikeliest of all Habs was the one to win the game. Daniel Briere, the man who had scored 109 points in 108 playoff games coming into the evening, found himself in a battle for a loose puck behind the Lightning goal. Somehow, the smallest player in the scrum found the puck, and made no mistake hitting a wide open Dale Weise with a pass to the goal mouth. Weise one timed the puck, and found the back of the net in the postseason for the first time in his NHL career.
On the night, the Canadiens outshot the Lightning 44-25 and certainly deserved the win. However, it was Price’s ability to raise his game in the extra frame that led to Montreal’s victory.
Sure, if he was better in the first 60 minutes, Montreal could have come away with a victory in regulation time. But when the Habs needed a save to stay in the game, Price was there to keep the team in the game.
Overall it was a great performance by the Canadiens as they dominated stretches of the game, and were never in serious doubt of being able to win the game. If Price can bring his regular performance to game two and beyond, Montreal has a great chance of winning this series.