Montreal stood on the brink of sweeping a playoff series for the first time since 1993, and they did not disappoint. The night was kicked off on CBC with another great Tim Thompson montage, which you can watch here.
Just like she did in Game 3, Ginette Reno whipped the crowd into a frenzy with her heartfelt rendition of the national anthem. Say what you will about the woman, but her passion is currently unmatched among all anthem singers.
The Lightning started the game with a little extra pep in their step, which was expected considering they were facing elimination, but an early goal from the Ginette Reno blessed Daniel Briere gave Montreal a quick lead, and added to Briere's 'clutch in the playoffs' narrative.
The 'utility players' currently on the Habs roster are not only putting in a yeoman's work, but they're actively contributing to the success of the team. From Bourque, to Weise, to Bournival, Briere, Gionta and Eller, all of them were a major part why the Canadiens managed a four game sweep.
The Lightning did appear to claw back into the game, thanks to a sketchy short handed goal by the extremely talented Ondrej Palat. I saw a few people blame Carey Price for the goal, however in my opinion it was no fault of his. Not only did Emelin cough up the puck whilst not being pressured, but the goal was basically shoved into Price's net via Palat and Gorges' glove. However let's not dwell on that questionable call, because the Habs certainly didn't.
The man who is the epitome of a 'good ole hockey player' put the Habs up by two once again, by beating Lindback on the far side, with a perfect shot.
As one would expect, the story put forth by CBC was that Lindback was weak on the goal, however it was absolutely perfect shot placement by Gallagher. If Stamkos had scored we'd be hearing about the shot, but of course it was all about how terrible Lindback's reaction time is.
Victor Hedman cut the lead to 3-2, as he banked a shot off of Price's pads from behind the net. Price overplayed the initial shot a little, and found himself out of position by the time Hedman recovered for the no-angle shot attempt. Hedman was impressive during this series, although he didn't exactly get many chances to show his talent. I can clearly remember a few nice rushes, and a lot of stellar defensive play. Tampa has a good one in #77.
The Bolts tied the game at the six-minute mark, via a quick Nick Johnson shot. There were a few defensive breakdowns on the play, but to Johnson's credit he got the shot off at blazing speeds, and Price never saw it.
As the game seemed to be heading to overtime, the perfect hero appeared. With his father in the stands, Max Pacioretty scored his first playoff goal in his career, and it couldn't have been better timing.
Although, all CBC had to talk about was the fact that it was on a power play, one that you would have a terrible time explaining why it shouldn't have been called, other than "because it's the playoffs". Tampa was getting away with murder all period, and Paquette had clearly tripped Bournival.
Does it feel right winning the series off a powerplay? Sure, why not?
Montreal dominated this series. They outplayed, out-skated and out-chanced the Bolts. They finished the series with a few more power plays than Tampa, but with a quick review of all the games you could have expected more. There's a reason the team that's chasing tends to take penalties, and it's not due to refs, no matter how badly people try to spin this into a controversial series. Even if Bishop had played, at worst it would have extended the series a few games, but the way Montreal played, I don't think it would have mattered in the long run.
Let's be clear, the referees were not particularly great all series, although they disallowed the same amount of goals for both teams. What led to the series sweep was Montreal's superior play, the rest is an effect of those dominant performances.
Next time someone tells you Montreal won the series due to the refs, laugh, smile, and refer them to the score adjusted FF% throughout the series.
As a side note, how delicious was it to watch Cedric "I'm going to make Montreal regret not drafting me" Paquette sit in the box as Montreal clinched the series? Mind your tongue next time, Cedric, in regards to the contrived drama, no one will think any less of you.
Tampa should be reasonably proud of their efforts in this series, their best player was coming off a broken leg, their captain threw a hissy fit and demanded a trade mid-season, and they were missing their starting goaltender.
Not even the heroics of Steven Stamkos, arguably the best player in the league, were able to save them. The good news for Tampa is that they have a great coach, a solid group of exciting forwards, and one of the best players not currently in the NHL in their pipeline, a young man by the name of Jonathan Drouin. The future is bright in Tampa Bay.
We'll have an in-depth series review available in the next couple days, in the mean time enjoy the highlights from Game 4.
Briere uses the Reno force:
Eller has awoken
Emelin shits the bed:
Gallagher with a perfect shot:
Hedman cuts the lead:
Johnson ties it up:
Pacioretty scores his 40th goal of the year (77 games)