Tyler Johnson’s Late Tally Puts the Habs on the Brink

It was a game that the Montreal Canadiens needed to win. It was a game that the Canadiens appeared to be taking control over in a must-win scenario. The Canadiens controlled play in the entire 2nd period and the entire 3rd period. They were able to finally slow down the up-tempo game of the Tampa Bay Lightning. They were creating turnovers, controlling the puck, getting shots from all angles on Lightning goalie Ben Bishop. They were a desperate team that needed a win. However, on this night it was not enough. The Canadiens did not have a good 1st period and in the end it was a factor that cost them the opportunity to make this a series.

(Jeff Griffith-USA TODAY Sports)
The 6’6 Victor Hedman has played exceptional hockey(Jeff Griffith-USA TODAY Sports)

Lightning Strike First

The Lightning opened up the scoring in this game when Steven Stamkos send a nifty backhand pass from the top of the half-boards to the stick of Alex Killorn who was wide open and had all day to shoot the puck. Killorn took advantage of the missed assignment by the Montreal Canadiens and put the puck in the back of the net. Tampa Bay had the puck a lot in the 1st period and it was highlighted by Killorn’s 3rd goal of the playoffs.

(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Alex Killorn scored his 3rd goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 3. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

 Canadiens Show Some Life

The 2nd and 3rd periods were another story. The Canadiens slowed down the Tampa attack completely. The Habs hit posts and created traffic in front of Ben Bishop. Bishop made several key saves to keep his team in the game in this one. The Canadiens outshot Tampa Bay 31-19 for the game in this contest. The team was finally rewarded for their hard work when Brendan Gallagher was relentless on a loose puck and was able to backhand one behind Ben Bishop 10:03 into the 3rd period to tie the score.

Tom Gilbert took the original shot from the point, Gallagher sent the rebound on net from the slot and then went hard to the net and backhanded the puck in from a bad angle while falling down. It was a great individual effort by Gallagher. The Canadiens kept pushing the pace and had their best chance to win the game with just under 3 minutes remaining when an Alex Galchenyuk pass was missed by David Desharnais.

Ben Bishop was out of position and it appeared for a second that Desharnais would find the back of the twine, but the puck went over his stick. The game appeared to be heading to overtine. However, the Lightning had one last rush in them up the ice before overtime.

With about 10 seconds remaining in regulation Anton Stralman sent the puck up the right side board to Ondrej Palat. Palat, who had plenty of space, carried the puck into the Canadiens zone and skated to the middle of the ice. He sent a pass to a streaking Victor Hedman who had jumped into the rush and caught Palat’s pass at the top of the left circle, Hedman skated the puck down low and sent a cross-crease pass to a wide open Tyler Johnson who scored five-hole on Carey Price with 1.1 seconds remaining in regulation.

Tampa Bay found a way to win this hockey game without playing close to their best hockey.

 Johnson’s Cluth Performances Continue

Tyler Johnson’s goal gave him a league leading playoffs total of 8 and a league leading 3rd game-winning goal of the Stanley Cup Playoff. The humble sophomore from Spokane, Washington continues to carry this team and score big-time clutch goals for Tampa Bay.

However, tonight it was the spectacular play of Ben Bishop that allowed Johnson’s heroics to occur tonight at Amalie Arena. Bishop knows that the job in this series is not yet completed.

Look for Tampa Bay to come out fast tomorrow night in Game 4 as they try to advance to the 3rd Eastern Conference Finals in franchise history and first since 2011.