Lightning striking first has winning results in playoffs
MONTREAL — Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper says scoring first shouldn’t change a team’s approach.
It has worked so far for the defending champions in building a 2-0 lead in their Stanley Cup Final series against the Montreal Canadiens.
Tampa Bay has not only scored first in both games, it has yet to trail following a 3-1 win on Wednesday, and the series shifting to Montreal for Game 3 on Friday and Game 4 on Monday.
“It shouldn’t change the way you play,” Cooper said Thursday. “Regardless of the score, you should keep trying to dictate play, and not getting in that little sit-back mode.”
The Lightning are 14-2 when scoring first in the playoffs, and 0-4 when giving up the first goal.
The Canadiens have also been dominant in that category. They’re 11-2 when scoring first and 1-6 when falling behind 1-0.
Montreal assistant coach Luke Richardson said there were many positives in how his team responded in Game 2, playing much better after a 5-1 series-opening loss. If not for Andrei Vasilevskiy stopping 42 shots, including 28 of 29 through two periods, the Canadiens had numerous chances to score first.
“Now we’ve just got to compete at the same level and push to finish a little bit better and maybe, you know, score the first goal and play with the lead in this series and see where it takes us,” Richardson said.
Quebec public health officials denied the Canadiens request to increase attendance inside the Bell Centre from 3,500 to 10,500. They are, however, increasing the number of people allowed to gather outdoors to 5,000.
Outdoor viewing parties are planned in Montreal’s entertainment district starting Friday night. That’s in addition to the large crowd that will be gathered in the plaza around the arena.
“We are slowly recovering from a historic pandemic, and this unifying moment that represents the Stanley Cup final is coming at the right time,” Mayor Valérie Plante said. “As of this Friday, Montrealers will have the opportunity to encourage their favorite hockey team, a source of pride for our metropolis, in its quest for (their) 25th Stanley Cup.”
Masks are recommended and groups of people not from the same household will be required to remain about five feet apart. The city closes numerous streets on game days and weekends to allow for bars and restaurants to increase their outdoor seating capacity.
Cooper said injured Tampa Bay forward Alex Killorn would be in Montreal after missing Game 2. His status and those of other players who got banged up but kept playing Wednesday are all uncertain.
“I’ll answer that tomorrow,” Cooper said.
Blake Coleman on Wednesday became just the fourth player to Cup Final history to score the game-winning goal in the final two seconds of a period. He joins Jeff Carter in 2014, Mike Bossy in 1982 and Bob Pulford in 1964. Coleman scored with 1.1 seconds remaining in the second period.
SUZUKI A 10
Canadiens second-year forward Nick Suzuki became Montreal’s third player to score 10 goals in one playoff before turning 22. Suzuki’s second-period goal in Game 3 gave him 10 goals and 21 points in 29 career postseason games.
A little over a month shy of his 22nd birthday, Suzuki joined Claude Lemieux and Stephane Richer, who each scored 14.
Veteran teammate Eric Staal said the 5-foot-11 Suzuki reminds him of former teammate Ray Whitney, who went on to score 385 goals and 1,064 points in 1,330 career NHL games over 22 seasons. At 5-foot-10, Whitney was also a smaller forward.
“Smaller, but uber competitive and intelligent with the puck, and that’s kind of what Nick was,” Staal said. “He puts himself in good positions to be able to do the right things defensively, but also create offense.”