Lightning’s 3 Keys to Clinching the Stanley Cup in Game 5

On Monday, the Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. Josh Anderson got the Canadiens on the board in the first period, giving them their first lead of the series. Late in the second frame, Barclay Goodrow scored his first goal in 15 games to even up the game at one goal apiece. In the third period, the Canadiens took the lead again, but with approximately six minutes remaining, Pat Maroon responded with a goal to force overtime. 

After killing off a four-minute high-sticking penalty that extended into overtime, Anderson lit the lamp again to stave off elimination and send the series back to Tampa. Despite playing well in Game 4, the Lightning didn’t get the result they were looking for. Let’s take a look at their keys to clinching the Stanley Cup in Game 5.

1. Andrei Vasilevskiy

The Lightning are a perfect 14-0-0 coming off a loss in the past two Stanley Cup Playoffs. Six of those wins occurred this postseason and of them, three followed a loss in a potential elimination game. The common denominator in all those contests? Andrei Vasilevskiy was in net. In 22 games this postseason, he has posted a 1.99 goals-against average (GAA) and a league-leading .935 save percentage (SV%). He also has four shutouts and a remarkable goals saved above expected (GSAx) of 15.62.

Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Vasilevskiy has been stellar in elimination games during the playoffs. He recorded a shutout to eliminate the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, and New York Islanders. He even shut out the Dallas Stars to win the 2020 Stanley Cup. Three of the aforementioned games came after a loss. Vasilevskiy’s ability to make big saves in key moments and hold teams off long enough for the Lightning score has been a consistent theme this season. The 2012 first-round draft pick gives the Lightning the advantage heading into Game 5.

2. Power Play Performance

Up until the Stanley Cup Final, the Lightning’s power play has been a force to be reckoned with. In the first round of the playoffs, they cashed in on eight of their 20 chances with a man advantage. They found similar success in their two subsequent series, scoring on 47 percent of their power plays in Round 2 and 29 percent in Round 3. The Canadiens’ formidable penalty kill has changed the narrative.

Playoff RoundOpponentPower Play GoalsPower Play AttemptsPower Play Success Rate
1Florida Panthers82040%
2Carolina Hurricanes71547%
3New York Islanders51729%
4Montreal Canadiens21217%
The Lightning’s power-play success rate has plummeted in the Stanley Cup Final.

Entering the series, the Canadiens hadn’t allowed a power-play goal in 30 straight opportunities. Late in Game 1, the Lightning broke that streak. Although they scored another power-play goal in Game 3, they have yet to really hit their stride this series. Game 4 was by far their worst showing, failing to capitalize on five opportunities with a man advantage. This included a four-minute power play that extended three minutes into overtime. In order to win in Game 5, the Lightning simply have to find the net when they have an extra skater on the ice.

3. Lady Luck

Although they didn’t get the victory, the Lightning played well in Game 4. In fact, they dominated large stretches of the game. Head coach Jon Cooper put it best when he said,

“What could we have done different? Probably not hit as many posts as we hit. The puck’s been going in for us, and tonight it didn’t. Do I think we generated enough chances to score? I did, and they didn’t go in and sometimes that happens.”

‘Canadiens avoid the sweep as Lightning will try to clinch at home’, Tampa Bay Times, July 6, 2021

Canadiens’ goaltender Carey Price played well in the contest, recording a .941 SV% and allowing just two goals. This was the first time in this series that he truly put his stamp on the game. However, it should be noted that the Lightning also hit the post three times. Unfortunately, the puck never bounced in their favor.

Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price has a 2.34 GAA and a .922 SV% during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Outside of the power play, the Lightning shouldn’t deviate from their game plan. If they continue to play as they did in Game 4, it is only a matter of time before the puck bounces their way again. Furthermore, getting forward Alex Killorn back from injury would be a boost for the team. He was injured while blocking a shot during Game 1 and has missed three straight games. Mathieu Joseph has played well in his absence, recording the game-tying assist in the third period of Game 4. However, the leadership and physicality that Killorn brings to the ice isn’t something that Joseph’s speedy playing style can replicate. 

One More Win

Just one win stands between the Lightning and their second consecutive Stanley Cup. Knowing that it won’t be easy, Cooper said,

“We played some extremely solid games in these situations, but the bottom line is it’s your work ethic that gets you there. To win the Stanley Cup, you have to earn it. The other team’s not going to give it to you.”

During the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, the Lightning bounced back from an overtime loss against the Dallas Stars with a 2-0 shutout to win their first Stanley Cup in 16 seasons. They will look to replicate that as they take on the Canadiens in Game 5 at Amalie Arena on Wednesday. After playing in the bubble last season, the Lightning will have the opportunity to win in front of their fans. It would be the first Stanley Cup-clinching home win since the Chicago Blackhawks did so in 2015.

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