The Montreal Canadiens are heading home in search of their first win in the Stanley Cup final. And while they may not have permission for extra help in the stands, they are expected to have it behind their bench.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made a playoff career-high 42 saves to put the Tampa Bay Lightning up two games to none in the final with a 3-1 victory Wednesday night.
“The message is, 'Don’t stop doing what we’ve been doing all playoffs,” said Canadiens veteran winger Corey Perry, who lost to the Lightning in the 2020 final with Dallas. “You continue to play your game, continue to do the things that got you here, you’re going to be successful.”
Blake Coleman, Anthony Cirelli and Ondrej Palat scored for the defending Cup champions.
Nick Suzuki potted the lone goal for the Canadiens on one of his game-high nine shots on Vasilevskiy. Carey Price stopped 20-of-23 shots.
The Canadiens say Quebec's Public Health Department will not allow more than 3,500 fans at the Bell Centre for the team's upcoming home games, including Game 3 on Friday.
The team's public relations department made the announcement on Twitter during Game 2. Montreal had asked the government to ease COVID-19 health restrictions and increase capacity at the Bell Centre to 10,500 people.
“Hockey is meant to be played in front of fans, and it brings an energy to the building,” Cooper said earlier this week. “The fans in Quebec deserve it. They haven’t been back since ’93. They deserve to watch their team play.”
When the Stanley Cup final shifts to Montreal for Games 3 and 4, the Canadiens do, however, expect to have coach Dominique Ducharme back behind their bench.
Ducharme was required by provincial protocol in Quebec to isolate for 14 days after testing positive for the coronavirus. That two-week period ends Friday, just in time for Game 3 against the Lightning that night.
Canadiens players say Ducharme has actively participated in meetings virtually while assistant Luke Richardson handles the daily duties in person.
“He’s involved in the process,” defenseman Jon Merrill said. "Not obviously as much as he was before he got struck with COVID, but he’s definitely still a big part of this team and we look forward to seeing him when we get back to Montreal.”
The Canadiens are the latest team to attempt to end Canada's 28-year Stanley Cup drought. Montreal was the last Canadian team to hoist the iconic trophy when they won their 24th Cup back in 1993.
Until this year, Montreal had not made the Cup final since their last title. Vancouver (twice), Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa advanced the final series over that time, but were unable to bring the Cup back north of the border.
The Stanley Cup final makes its debut at the Bell Centre. The Habs still called the old Montreal Forum home when they won the cup in '93.
Tickets are at a premium for Montreal fans wanting to watch the Cup final in person.
The 3,500 tickets available for Montreal home games have been dispersed through a lottery system by the hockey club among its season ticket holders.
On Monday, ticket prices were as high as $1,500 each for red premium seats for Games 3 and 4 and $1,875 for a possible Game 6.
The cheapest seats in the upper bowl range cost $600 for the first two home contests on July 2 and July 5, rising to $750 for Game 6.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2021.
The Canadian Press