Lightning's stunning Game 3 comeback took all the heart out of the Habs
Posted: Wednesday April 28, 2004 2:39PM; Updated: Wednesday April 28, 2004 2:39PM
No. 1Tampa Bay vs. No. 7Montreal
STORY OF THE SERIES
On a loaded Lightning team that has an MVP candidate in Martin St. Louis and another elite sniper in Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier still can stand out like no other player. That's what he's doing against the Canadiens, the team he idolized as a boy. Lecavalier has scored five goals, and had at least one in each of the three games, as the Lightning controlled Montreal in the first two matches, then rallied from a 3-2 deficit late in Game 3 to win in overtime. "We've got to keep going," Lecavalier told reporters after Tampa Bay's Game 2 win, and the Lightning are showing no signs of throttling back whether they're leading or trailing in a game.
SURPRISE OF THE SERIES
It has to be the Game 3 comeback. The Montreal crowd, loud all game, was cheering wildly with 30 seconds left. The Canadiens' high-energy play appeared to get them back into the series. The tying play started with a smart move by Dave Andreychuk, who put a wobbly, calf-high shot on Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore, forcing Theodore to glove -- and hold -- the puck. That set up a faceoff in the Canadiens' zone. After that faceoff, Andreychuk, Tampa's savviest player, put a shot on goal that Lecavalier neatly redirected through his legs and past Theodore. That tied the score with 16 seconds left, and though the Canadiens said later they were not deflated going into overtime (hard to believe), Richards officially popped their bubble of enthusiasm when he scored 65 seconds into the extra period. The crowd trudged stunned and saddened into the Montreal night, and even Lightning coach John Tortorella appeared slightly shocked that his team had pulled this out.
THE CANADIENS WILL WIN IF ...
They can somehow keep up the intensity they showed throughout Game 3 and still stay responsible defensively. Montreal showed that, with enough effort, it can outplay the Lightning for chunks of time, and also showed that, with enough persistence, they can eventually pierce the Bulin Wall that is Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. Montreal needs to keep getting the puck onto Saku Koivu's stick so he make some nifty plays, and capitalize on the resurgent Alexei Kovalev. Essentially, the Canadiens have to play 240 minutes of mistake-free hockey to have any chance.
THE LIGHTNING WILL WIN IF ...
Their big players keep making big plays and the team simply shows the same, undaunted killer instinct it showed in Game 3. Tampa Bay would have to completely fall apart to lose this series. And given the way its offense is rolling, how well its defense played in the first two games and how spectacular Khabibulin has been throughout the series, that would be a major, major breakdown.
Tampa Bay appears to have taken Montreal's best shot, and brushed it aside. The Lightning will close out this series in a sweep.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Kostya Kennedy takes sides each week at SI.com.