Tampa Bay close to repeating as Cup champions

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have pushed the Montreal Canadiens to the brink and need just one more win to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. The Lightning earned a 6-3 win in Game 3 on Friday night to take a 3-0 lead in the series.

Tampa Bay jumped on the Canadiens early with two goals just over three minutes into the first period. Montreal regained some momentum afterward and cut the deficit to 2-1, but the Lightning struck two times just over three minutes into the second period to take a commanding 4-1 lead. The Canadiens recovered from that slow start as well with another late goal, but they were unable to close the gap in the third.

Teams that go up 3-0 in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final have a 26-1 record (.963). The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs were the only team to emerge victorious after losing the first three games of the series. Montreal will look to achieve that feat as well as avoid being the first team to be swept in the Stanley Cup Final since 1998 when the Washington Capitals lost in four straight matches to the Detroit Red Wings. Game 4 between the Lightning and the Canadiens will take place at the Bell Centre on Monday.

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TAMPA BAY 6 MONTREAL 3 (Lightning lead series 3-0)

The Lightning extended their win streak to four consecutive games following a third straight win over Montreal on Friday.

Tyler Johnson scored a pair of goals in the contest despite being moved back to the fourth line following a promotion to the second combination in Game 2. He made the most of his 9:08 of ice time with four shots and the game-winning goal.

Jan Rutta opened the scoring just 1:52 into the contest and Victor Hedman scored a power-play goal at 3:27 of the first period to give the Lightning an early 2-0 lead. Hedman also assisted on Rutta’s goal and leads all blueliners in the postseason with 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) in 21 games.

Nikita Kucherov, who also scored 1:40 into the second stanza, picked up the primary helper on Hedman’s goal. He leads the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs in scoring with 32 points (eight goals, 24 assists) across 21 matches.

Anthony Cirelli picked up the other assist on the man advantage. He has been playing on the top power-play unit of the Lightning in the absence of Alex Killorn, who missed a second straight game on Friday due to an undisclosed injury.

Phillip Danault scored for the first time in 20 games this postseason to get Montreal on the board in the first period.

Nick Suzuki cut the Canadiens’ deficit to 4-2 at 18:04 of the second period and Corey Perry scored at 15:58 of the third frame, but Montreal was unable to get any closer.

Blake Coleman extended his point streak to three games with an empty-netter to round out the scoring.

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Ondrej Palat provided two assists in the contest, while Mathieu Joseph, Barclay Goodrow, David Savard, Erik Cernak, Brendan Gallagher, Cole Caufield, Shea Weber, Ben Chiarot and Jeff Petry supplied one helper apiece.

Palat also had a game-high eight hits, while Joseph and Danault were credited with five each.

Kucherov had a game-high six shots, while Weber and Gallagher were right behind with five apiece.

Brayden Point, Savard, Weber and Jon Merrill tied for the lead among skaters with three blocked shots each.

Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 32 shots in the victory. He has a .948 save percentage in the Stanley Cup Final.

Carey Price allowed five goals on 29 shots in the loss. He has a save percentage of .835 in the Stanley Cup Final.

Montreal coach Dominique Ducharme was back behind the bench after missing six games following a positive COVID-19 test result on June 18.