MONTREAL (AP) — Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos ended his scoring drought and the Lightning’s power-play came to life with four goals — at the expense of the reeling Montreal Canadiens.
Stamkos scored his first goal of the playoffs and Tampa Bay beat Montreal 6-2 on Sunday night to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
“I don’t know if it was more relief that he scored or the power play scored, so it was kind of the whole compilation of Alka Seltzer,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
Nikita Kucherov scored twice on power plays, Valtteri Filppula, Victor Hedman and J.T. Brown added goals, and Ben Bishop made 27 saves for the Lightning.
Jeff Petry and Tom Gilbert scored for Montreal. Carey Price allowed the most goals he has all season, finishing with 18 saves.
Game 3 is Wednesday night at Tampa Bay. In Game 1, Tampa Bay won 2-1 in double overtime.
“I don’t know how much home ice has been an advantage in all the playoffs so far,” Bishop said. “We look forward to going home, but it’s not going to be any easier.”
The Lightning power play went 4 for 8 after scoring only twice on 34 chances.
“We had a lot of movement, we made smart decisions, we shot the puck hard,” Cooper said. “When you’re making tape-to-tape passes you’re giving yourself a chance.”
With the score tied at 1 midway through the second period, Stamkos took a puck that went off Andrei Markov’s skate and off his own leg to send him in on a breakaway. From there, he deked Carey Price.
“It was definitely a release of some things that have been building up,” Stamkos said. “Whether it’s my first or my 20th, at that time of the game, to go up, your emotions are running high. Any time you score a goal in the playoffs it’s exciting, but that one maybe a little more so than others I’ve scored.”
Jeff Petry and Tom Gilbert scored for Montreal. Price allowed the most goals he has all season, finishing with 18 saves.
“We’re doing a lot of good things, but we have to find a way to finish around the net,” Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban said. “We got a lot of chances. If we finish earlier, or getting a couple of goals earlier, maybe it’s a different story.”
Tampa Bay went 4 for 7 on the power play, and Montreal was 0 for 3.
Filppula and Hedman also scored with the man advantage as Tampa Bay got its first power-play goals since Game 2 of its seven-game opening series against Detroit.
Montreal is 1 for 26 with the man advantage in the playoffs.
The Canadiens scored the first goal of a game for only the second time in eight postseason contests when Petry took a pass from Torrey Mitchell and beat Bishop with a wrist shot from the blue line at 7:20.
Montreal let it slip away with undisciplined penalties. Brandon Prust got an extra 2 minutes for yapping at a referee, and Subban was sent off for cross-checking. Filppula tied it with Subban off on a shot from the right circle with 24 seconds left in the period.
“There was no goal bigger than Filppula’s,” Cooper said. “For them to walk into their dressing room with nothing to show for it was a momentum-swinger for us and we took the game over after that.”
Stamkos used a fortunate bounce to go in on a breakaway and deke Price for a goal 8:06 into the second. It was the Lightning captain’s first goal in nine postseason games this year. He also had two assists.
The Lightning had a 4-on-3 man advantage when Tyler Johnson slipped a cross-ice pass to Kucherov for a shot into an open side at 12:29. Then, Price had no chance when Hedman finished a back-door play with Alex Killorn on a power play at 19:46.
Kucherov redirected Johnson’s pass inside the post 6:37 into the third to make it 5-1, before Gilbert scored from the point at 11:06 for Montreal. Brown added his goal at 16:05.
Prust got a game misconduct with 3:55 left. He bumped Bishop, leading to a fight with Braydon Coburn.
“We don’t want to be in the box all game,” Subban said. “We can look at this game and say that it’s discipline — and that’s part of it — but we had opportunities to change the game early and it doesn’t happen for us.”
NOTES: Center David Desharnais was a late scratch with the flu, forcing Montreal to juggle lines, including reuniting the EGG line of Lars Eller, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. . .. Tampa Bay lost twice at home in the first round against Detroit.
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