Montreal Canadiens sweep Lightning, avoid scare from Latvian nemesis

Greg Wyshynski
Montreal Canadiens' Max Pacioretty slides in on Tampa Bay Lightning's goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis during second period NHL Stanley Cup playoff action in Montreal, Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Montreal Canadiens' Max Pacioretty slides in on Tampa Bay Lightning's goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis during second period NHL Stanley Cup playoff action in Montreal, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes)

For a moment, it appeared that Kristers Gudlevskis was going to finally get the best of a Canadian team.

But the moment belonged instead to Max Pacioretty and the Montreal Canadiens.

Pacioretty scored his first goal of the playoffs on the power play at 19:17, giving the Habs a 4-3 victory in Game 4 of their divisional semifinal against the Tampa Bay Lightning, completing a sweep and becoming the first team to advance in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Gudlevskis, the Lightning’s rookie goalie, entered the game at 5:42 of the second period after starter Anders Lindback gave up his third goal on 20 shots at Bell Centre. If that name sounds familiar, it should: The Lightning goalie nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Winter Olympic history back in February, when his 55-save performance gave eventual Sochi gold medal winner Canada the scare of its tournament in a 2-1 loss for Latvia.

Against Montreal in Game 4, Gudlevskis made 16 saves and backstopped a two-goal third-period rally for Tampa Bay to tie the game 3-3, on goals by Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson.

But a late tripping penalty by rookie Cedric Paquette gave Montreal the power play that would end it. Thomas Vanek and P.K. Subban had the assists on Pacioretty’s goal, tucked through the pads of Gudlevskis on a deflected puck.

“That’s my first playoff goal in my career,” said Pacioretty, who had 39 goals in the regular season.

“Coach has been on me, saying I’ve been playing really well. Sometimes you don’t trust them when you’re not playing well.”

He picked the right time to break through. It was the 22nd time in franchise history the Canadiens swept a series, more than any other franchise in pro sports.

Carey Price made 20 saves. Danny Briere, Lars Eller and Brendan Gallagher scored for the Habs, who completed a dominating series against the shorthanded Lightning, who were without starting goalie Ben Bishop in the series.

Goaltending ultimately wasn’t the issue for Tampa Bay – but team defense was. The Habs scored 16 goals in four games, often looking like they were skating at a different speed than the Lightning. Gallagher scored three goals in the series victory. Subban now has five points.

So the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup, in 1993 – and the only Canadian team in this year’s tournament – plays on to the Atlantic Division final, where they’ll face the winner of Boston and Detroit’s series.

Something tells us the Canadiens would love their crack at the Bruins. As would the rest of the hockey world outside of Detroit.