TAMPA, Fla. — Andrei Vasilevskiy turned away 42 shots Wednesday as the Tampa Bay Lightning eked out a 3-1 win over the rejuvenated Montreal Canadiens in a thrilling Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final.
The Habs peppered the Tampa Bay goal with 43 shots, compared with just 23 from the Bolts, but they couldn't solve Vasilevskiy, whose team now takes a 2-0 series lead into Game 3 Friday in Montreal.
If there was good news in Wednesday's result, it was the fact that the Canadiens looked like a different hockey team than the one that looked so flat-footed during their 5-1 loss in Game 1.
"I thought we played a heck of a hockey game tonight," said veteran Habs winger Corey Perry.
"At the same time, it wasn't enough. We've got to find that extra gear."
After a first period that featured more penalty minutes than points, the lopsided shots on goal told the story: 13 for Montreal, a measly six for the Bolts.
The Lightning opened the scoring six minutes into the second on Anthony Cirelli's blue-line wrister through traffic, which found its way past the blocker of an outstretched Carey Price.
Blake Coleman and Ondrej Palat also scored for the Bolts, while Nick Suzuki managed the only Montreal goal.
The Canadiens went 1 for 3 on the power play, while the Lightning were blanked on three opportunities with the man advantage.
Montreal's Nick Suzuki evened things up at the halfway mark of the second, a blooper power-play backhand that Vasilevskiy failed to see from behind the ever-present Perry.
The Bolts reclaimed the lead with just one second left in the middle frame when Coleman's desperation lunge tipped a leading pass from Barclay Goodrow past Price as he slid across the crease.
But the ugliest goal of the night came late in the third, when Joel Edmundson's casual backhand pass behind Price instead bounced straight to Palat, who fired from a bad angle and banked it in off the goaltender.
The Habs held the robust Lightning power play scoreless on two chances in the first 20 minutes, but failed to capitalize on a rare 4-on-3 opportunity late in the period, the result of Ryan McDonagh's double minor for a high stick that drew blood from Phillip Danault's nose.
And while the Habs managed to avoid the number of turnovers they gave up in Game 1, the ones in the neutral zone that mattered the most were all the Bolts needed.
"We had a little bit of a puck management thing right at the end of the second, which was unfortunate," assistant coach Luke Richardson said of the slip-up that led to the Coleman goal.
"I thought the guys had a lot of character, they came out and played hard in the third, and unfortunately, it didn't go our way. But, you know, I was confident that the guys would bounce back and play our style of game and play it hard. And we did. So we're getting better."
Getting the puck past Vasilevskiy will be job 1 Friday in Montreal, Perry said — and the way to do it will be to take away his eyes.
"If he sees the puck, he's going to stop it — he's a world-class goalie," he said.
He's big, he's out, he challenges, and he can stop the puck. So you continue to make him work, make him look over somebody, make him battle for that extra opportunity. We'll just keep wearing him down that way."
The team also announced Wednesday that the Quebec government refused to grant a request that 10,500 physically distanced fans be allowed to attend Friday's Game 3 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Instead, ongoing COVID-19 restrictions will continue to limit capacity for Game 3 to just 3,500 fans.
"I know they'd love to be in the building, but it's just not the case in the world we're living in right now," Suzuki said.
We love playing in front of our fans. We feel the energy out in the streets. It's been a lot of fun to play back at the Bell Centre and we know the 3,500 that will be there will be cheering us on."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2021.
James McCarten, The Canadian Press