The Montreal Canadiens have the opportunity to do something tonight that the most historic franchise in National Hockey League history has not done since Gilbert Dionne beat Grant Fuhr in overtime in the 1993 postseason.
The Canadiens have not led a playoff series 3-0 since their run to the 1993 Stanley Cup, but could find themselves in that situations with a victory at home tonight.
The Canadiens started the series in Tampa Bay, and won both games, stealing home ice advantage away from the Lightning and taking a commanding lead in the opening round series.
Montreal dominated game one but were lucky to come away with a 5-4 victory in overtime, with Carey Price having one of the worst performances of his career in regulation. Price allowed four goals on the first 14 shots he faced, but stopped all nine shots thrown his way in the extra frame.
Price bounced back with a solid performance in game two, stopping 26 of 27 shots and leading the Habs to a 4-1 victory and a 2-0 series edge. Rene Bourque led the way offensively, scoring a pair of goals in the second game, with David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher adding singles.
The Canadiens now have a chance to really put the Lightning on the ropes, a win on home ice would give them a three game lead in the series. The 3-0 advantage has only been escaped by three teams in the history of the NHL.
The Lightning clearly have not played their best hockey of the season in the series first two games. The had eight players make their NHL playoff debut, and were outshot 44-25 in game one. Perhaps the playoff pressure got the better of the Lightning, and if so, expect a much looser and more offensive Tampa team when the series shifts to the Bell Centre tonight.
Much was made of the importance of home ice at the beginning of this series, with the two teams battling until the final game of the regular season for the right to host game one in the series. It appears home ice was more of a curse than an advantage for the Lightning, and now the pressure switches to the Canadiens, as they are expected to hold serve on home ice.
With the playoff pressure off Tampa, expect young players like Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, J.T. Brown, Radko Gudas and Ondrej Palat if he returns, to have their best games of the series.
Montreal answered the bell as the veteran team should when facing a young team early in the series. Tampa Bay had eight skaters make their playoff debut, while the Habs only playoff freshman is Michael Bournival. Not to mention Lindback was not making his debut, but had only 13 minutes of playoff experience, while Price had started 26 playoff games in his career previous to this series.
The Canadiens are not expected to make any lineup changes for tonight’s game, as they used the same lines at practice this morning that they have used in the opening two games of the series.
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Vanek
Prust – Plekanec – Gallagher
Bourque – Eller – Gionta
Bournival – Briere – Weise
Gorges – Subban
Markov – Emelin
Bouillon – Weaver
For the best deals on Montreal Canadiens playoff tickets check out TiqIQ.com