2021 Stanley Cup Final Game 4
TBL leads 3-0
How to watch
Start time: 8:00 PM EDT / 5:00 PM PDT
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the U.S.: NBC
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Live
In Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final the Canadiens played a very strong game, with plenty of scoring chances to test Andrei Vasilevskiy, but were done in by some critial errors on defence. The plan for Game 3 was just to do more of the same, on home ice for the first time, and expect more of their chances to go in.
Tampa Bay had plans of their own, however. They knew the matchup battle wasn’t going to be in their favour, and so came out of the gate determined to get the jump on the Habs. And they did so, racing out to a 2-0 lead before the game had hit the four-minute mark.
The Canadiens got the deficit to a manageable one goal before the intermission, but then allowed another two goals in quick succession as the second period began. Montreal pulled the dagger out of its chest a couple of times to stay in the fight, but each time they handed it back to the Lightning to plunge right back in.
No matter what the Habs have tried, the Lightning seem to have the answer, and now the team from Tampa is one win away from back-to-back championships.
Tale of the Tape
|48.9% (9th)||Corsi-for pct.||47.7% (11th)|
|2.40 (12th)||Goals per game||3.43 (2nd)|
|2.55 (4th)||Goals against per game||2.00 (2nd)|
|20.4% (7th)||PP%||36.7% (2nd)|
|90.6% (1st)||PK%||83.1% (4th)|
The good news from Game 3 is that the Canadiens were finally able to get multiple pucks behind Vasilveskiy. They saw him somewhat vulnerable and human, and they may have been questioning that after the first couple of games. It something to make the task ahead of them seem slightly less improbable.
It’s understandable that the players were a bit over-aggressive trying to score, especially in the second period of Game 2, but the Lightning were waiting to pounce. It’s a fine line to walk between not being too conservative and scoring one goal, or being too aggressive and allowing a handful, but that’s the balance Montreal will need to find to stay alive in the series.
Montreal did earn multiple rush chances in Game 3 by flying down the wings, and that’s something they have to stick with again tonight. It’s the way they’ve found success much of this season, and they can’t stray from that plan now.
With no wins in the series to this point, lineup changes have been hinted for Montreal. Any move made would have to be done in a bid to help the team offensively or take some minutes from the overtaxed top four on the blue line. Does Alexander Romanov come in for one of Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson? It would give the defenceman at least a bit of experience in a Stanley Cup Final to take with him to future seasons, which should be the secondary goal of the team now that the ultimate one is looking less likely. It’s a difficult situation to be thrown into, but also one with relatively low pressure considering the situation the team is in.
Does Jake Evans draw back in to add his speed to the rush offence the team needs? Eric Staal is a combined -4 in the past two games, so maybe placing Evans in the middle of the fourth line can help keep things flowing throughout the four-line rotation. And of course there’s Tomas Tatar who hasn’t played since the series against Toronto. Maybe he could find some offence in what could otherwise be his final game with an organization that seems ready to move on from its scoring leader from a season ago.
There’s nothing to lose at this point. Sticking to the same formation may only lead to a fourth consecutive defeat. We’ll what changes, if any, Dominique Ducharme has in store for what he hopes won’t be the final game of the 2020-21 season.