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TAMPA, FLORIDA – JUNE 28: Nikita Kucherov #86 of the Tampa Bay Lightning is congratulated by Brayden Point #21 after scoring a goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period in Game One of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 28, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo : Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
Tampa Bay’s title defense got off to a perfect start on Monday as the Lightning dismantled the Montreal Canadians, 5-1, in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Nikita Kucherov starred for the Lightning, who now hold a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Much of the buildup heading into the Stanley Cup Final centered on Tampa Bay star Kucherov and his injury situation. He suffered an undisclosed injury in the early stages of Game 6 against the New York Islanders that forced him to be sidelined for the rest of the contest. He returned to the starting lineup in Game 7, though his impact was limited in the Lightning’s 1-0 win.
Kucherov punishes Habs in Game 1
Kucherov put those concerns to rest with his terrific Game 1 performance. He was unstoppable in the series opener against the Canadiens, recording two goals and an assist in the 5-1 win. Kucherov has now scored 30 points in this postseason with seven goals and 23 assists. Not bad for a guy who missed the entire regular season due to hip surgery.
It was a historic night for Kucherov, who has now scored 30-plus points in back-to-back postseasons, joining NHL greats Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux as the only players to have accomplished that rare feat. He scored 34 points in the 2020 postseason, which ended with Tampa Bay as Stanley Cup champions.
Erik Cernak opened the scoring for Tampa Bay at 6:19 of the first period with his first NHL postseason goal in his 46th game. Cernak scored in the slot on a redirection of Ondrej Palat’s pass. Grabbing the opening goal will be a vital component in this series as both teams have flourished when taking an early 1-0 lead in this postseason. The Lightning are now 13-2 in games that they have scored first in these playoffs, while the Habs are 11-2.
Yanni Gourde then doubled the Lightning’s advantage at 5:47 of the second period when he redirected a shot from Blake Coleman to make it 2-0 for Tampa Bay. Ben Chiarot pulled one goal back for Montreal at 17:40 of the second period, nabbing his first career playoff goal in 52 postseason games. That was the end of Montreal’s rally, however, as the Lightning erupted for three goals in the third period, two of which came from Kucherov.
Turnovers sink Montreal in the series opener
It’s back to the drawing board for the Canadiens, who committed plenty of mistakes in Game 1. They committed turnovers that led directly to the Lightning’s first three goals. Montreal’s first two errors came on lateral passes high in the offensive zone that the Lightning were able to pick off and transition into deadly counterattack rushes. Montreal’s third turnover, on the other hand, came from an errant pass through the neutral zone.
The Canadiens can ill afford to commit such mistakes, especially against a talented team like the Lightning. Tampa Bay punished Montreal in Game 1, scoring five goals past Habs goaltender Carey Price, the most he has allowed in this postseason.
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