With their backs against the wall, the Montreal Canadiens finally got in the win column Thursday, beating Tampa Bay, 6-2, in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. They still trail 3-1 in the series, but what did you think of the Canadiens tonight?
“What do I think of the Canadiens tonight?” NHL Network, NESN and Sportsnet hockey analyst Bill Jaffe said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench, reiterating the question. “Well, they decided to get the puck out of their zone quickly. They decided to get it up to their forwards and challenge Ben Bishop again, and they got some goals. Finally they got more than one goal in a game. But they were actually pretty good last night (in Game 3). It was just that brain cramp in the last minute of the game that led to the best shift of the game from the Lightning that ended up with the goal with one second remaining. So two good games in a row for Montreal, just one win to show for it. But that’s what happens and they got a little life heading home.”
Montreal led 5-0 midway through the second period thanks to Max Pacioretty (one goal, two assists) and Brendan Gallagher, who scored his third goal of the postseason. The Canadiens had lost eight straight games to Tampa, but it was the Lightning who looked lifeless and out of sorts.
“Yeah, I agree,” Jaffe said. “I was pretty shocked actually – not that Tampa didn’t walk away with it, but just shocked at how passive and how lackadaisical and how, at times slow, Tampa looked. Now, big emotional win last night, but we’re not going to use it as an excuse obviously. But you get that victory – kind of a game you didn’t completely expect to win – and you get that little exhale. Then as a player, you’re like, ‘All right, we’ll be okay. It may take us a little time to get going.’ But you can’t do that in the NHL – or any pro league, for that matter, in any sport. So they didn’t come out well.
“But Gallagher, I love this kid,” Jaffe continued. “Trains with Milan Lucic over the summer. He has a lot of Milan Lucic in him except for the actual size. But he sure plays big and strong and tough. This is the kind of kid – it’s the old saying – you hate playing against him, but you love having him on your team.”
The series now shifts back to the Bell Centre for Game 5 on Saturday. Scott Ferrall fully expects the Canadiens to win and force a Game 6 in Tampa – and possibly a Game 7 back home in Montreal.
Why? Because the Canadiens have Carey Price.
“That’s why you say that,” Jaffe said. “You know, I know, and hockey fans know that anything can happen when you’ve got Carey Price in your net. That’s the big difference there. Bishop did not look solid again tonight. I’ve been kind of calling him the Riddler for a bit during these playoffs – because remember, this is his first year of playoff action. This is his first opportunity. So to me, he’s a big question mark on that jersey and he didn’t play great consistently against Detroit until the last game against them. Then here against Montreal, he’s gotten better with each game. But then tonight – like the rest of the team – he looked off. He looked passive. He looked slow in his movement. And then he had the goal going off his glove again – his third time in the playoffs that he’s had a goal that you would like to think he would stop going off his glove and in.
“But Montreal – look, I don’t look at this Montreal team and say, ‘Man, they’re awesome,’” Jaffe continued. “I look at them as being a very good team with a superior goalie, with the best goalie in the world, and they have the home-ice advantage behind them going back to the Bell Centre. It is going to be fun, it is going to be crazy, they are going to be indulging in some fun adult beverages – we all know that – and cheer in two languages. It’s going to be a great environment. But if Tampa gets their legs back and if they stay disciplined and then they can get Montreal taking a few penalties – which they did in Game 2 – that would play to their advantage. If not, absolutely I agree: Montreal has as good a chance to win the game as anybody.”