It took a couple of games more than they wanted, but the Tampa Bay Lightning finally eliminated the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 to move on to the Eastern Conference Final. A pair of goals from Nikita Kucherov and 18 saves from Ben Bishop helped guide them to a 4-1 victory.
Kucherov didn’t have a goal coming into the series, but leaves it after scoring six. His fifth of the series all began with a bad turnover in the Montreal zone by Tomas Plekanec. Ondrej Palat picked up the puck, fired a shot on net and Kucherov was there for the deflection:
The Lightning continued controlling possession into the second period, something they hadn’t done all series. After Tampa won the puck in the neutral zone, Alex Killorn dished it to Steven Stamkos, who changed the angle of his shot and put it through Jeff Petry’s legs and by Carey Price for a 2-0 lead 5:12 into the second period:
The middle frame ended up costing the Canadiens in a big way. At one point, they went 10:03 without a shot on Bishop. They also failed on a power play late in the period and P.A. Parenteau hit a post. A late penalty by Devante Smith-Pelly resulted in Tampa’s third goal, off a pretty passing play finished by Palat:
Max Pacioretty ended Bishop's shutout bid late in the third period, but minutes later Kucherov added his second of the night via an empty-netter, ending any hopes for a dramatic Montreal comeback.
“This was our Game 7 tonight," Stamkos told Pierre McGuire of NBCSN afterward. "This was the biggest game of the playoffs for us and we responded.”
This is now two straight stellar performances by Bishop in series clinchers. He stopped 31 shots in a 2-0 shutout of the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 during Round 1. He had moments to forget against the Canadiens, but came through in the end, withstanding Montreal’s desperate attempts to get back into the game.
The win sends Tampa to their first conference final since 2011, where only Stamkos and Victor Hedman remain from the roster that lost to the eventual-champion Boston Bruins. It also extends their impressive streak of not losing three or more games in a row this entire season.
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