Montreal Canadiens at Tampa Bay Lightning Game 4 preview
The Montreal Canadiens figured to have the goaltending edge in any playoff series after Carey Price's outstanding season.
Ben Bishop appears to have been thinking otherwise.
After a stunning last-second victory in Game 3, the Tampa Bay Lightning look to complete a sweep Thursday night and reserve a spot in the Eastern Conference finals.
Swept by the Canadiens in the opening round last season, the Lightning are one win away from exacting the best kind of revenge after Tyler Johnson's goal with 1.1 seconds left in regulation resulted in a 2-1 win Wednesday.
"Honestly, I didn't even know it was that close at the buzzer. ... I wasn't thinking about the time at all," Johnson said after his third game-winning goal this postseason.
"It's just a giant weight off the shoulders because overtime is fun, but nobody really wants to do it."
Johnson's league-leading eighth postseason goal gave Tampa Bay an eighth straight victory over Montreal, including a 21-8 margin in five regular-season wins.
"It's still a race to four. ... We've got to go for the jugular when we've got the chance," coach Jon Cooper said.
This will be the first time any series will have games on consecutive days.
"I can't say I'm a big fan of back to backs, especially in the playoffs," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "But both teams have to play, so it's probably not an advantage to either one."
Bishop allowed Brendan Gallagher's goal midway through the third period Wednesday, finishing with 30 saves to outplay Price again. Bishop has won five straight playoff games with a 1.12 goals-against average and has a 1.43 GAA during the eight-game win streak against the Canadiens.
There's little argument that Price was the best goaltender during the regular season, leading the NHL in wins (44), GAA (1.96) and save percentage (.933) to become the first to top all three categories since Ed Belfour in 1990-91.
Price, who also had a career-high nine shutouts, was named one of three finalists for the Hart and Vezina Trophies.
He was strong again when called upon Wednesday, stopping 17 shots, but he has allowed 10 goals in this series while his 2.30 playoff GAA pales in comparison to his regular-season mark.
Price will have to be at his best as the Canadiens try to avoid being swept for the first time since losing to Boston in the first round in 2009.
"It's not ideal, obviously," Price said. "Again tonight we hit three posts, and I thought we deserved to win the hockey game. I didn't come up with the save at the end of the game, so we got what we got now."
His play likely won't matter if Montreal can't get its offense in gear. The Canadiens have totaled seven goals while losing five of six after opening the playoffs by scoring nine times in three straight wins against Ottawa. They went scoreless on both power-play chances in Game 3 and are 1 for 28 this postseason, including 0 for 21 in the last seven.
Price is far from the only player that needs to shoulder blame. Tomas Plekanec tied for second on the team with 60 points but has been held to one assist in the last seven games with no points in this series. Star defenseman P.K. Subban also has been quiet, tallying no goals and two assists in that span.
Montreal now faces a monumental challenge as it tries to become the fifth team in league history to rally from a 3-0 series deficit. Los Angeles was the last to accomplish that, beating San Jose in last season's Western Conference quarterfinals.
"The only thing a coach can ask is that your team would compete, your team would be ready, and your team will work hard," Michel Therrien said. "This is exactly what we did. ... The only thing we were looking for when we came here is try to bring the series back to Montreal."
The Lightning haven't reached the conference finals since losing in seven games to Boston in 2010-11.