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For the Canadiens, the path back to glory is one game at a time

If Montreal wins Game 3, they’re right back in the series.

2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Two Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The pessimist would say that the Montreal Canadiens have to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning four out of five games to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning and win the Stanley Cup. Technically, it is absolutely correct, but it also is complicating the scenario.

In the first round of the playoffs, the Canadiens were down three games to one against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Three games in a row at that point seemed as unlikely — if not more — than the current situation. In that situation, the Canadiens had to win Game 5. Nothing else mattered. If they didn’t do that, then they were done.

Down two games to none is not an ideal scenario, but it’s also not a death blow. Sure, teams up 2-0 win more of the series than they lose. But the thing the Canadiens must do is avoid going down by three games. That makes the task all but impossible. Win Game 3, and you give yourself a chance.

If teams up 2-0 in the Stanley Cup Final won 100% of the time, there would be one Stanley Cup ring on their bench right now. After the team lost Game 2, assistant coach Alex Burrows told the coaching staff that in 2011, his Canucks team was in the same situation Tampa is in right now and ended up losing the series.

A lot has been said about the lack of more than 3,500 fans having an impact on the game. It might, sure, but home ice brings with it other advantages. Last change is perhaps the biggest one. It didn’t necessarily cost the team in Games 1 and 2 (both losses were not on the matchups) but it does give an advantage.

With Dominique Ducharme returning to the bench, there’s an additional boost to the Canadiens heading into a pivotal Game 3. And that’s where the focus must be. The Canadiens can’t get to four wins without getting to one first. The extra day of rest between Games 3 and 4 mean that Game 4 shouldn’t even be on their radar.

What should be on their radar is scoring more than one goal. In the playoffs this year, they are undefeated when they score more than one goal. It’s a crazy stat, but it just goes to show what they need to be at their best. It doesn’t necessarily excuse the poor decision making that led to the two final Lightning goals, but even if they played perfect defence in the second and third periods, they cannot win the game with only one goal.

Again, they have been in that situation before. After Game 4 of the Toronto series, they had lost three straight games with a grand total of two goals scored. Things were perhaps at their lowest, but they got it together in time to get back in that series.

Andrei Vasilevskiy deserves a lot of credit for where this series is after two games, and if the Canadiens want to get back in the series, the number of goals they put past him will go a long way in determining what the Canadiens are looking at heading into the weekend break.

“I think we had some good opportunities,” Toffoli said about the team’s offence through two games on Friday morning. When he was listing potential things the team had to do like getting traffic and pucks on net, he eventually stopped himself.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Just score.”