One win to prevent being swept will not sow any doubt in the minds of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
However, the Montreal Canadiens do believe claiming another victory when the Stanley Cup Final continues Wednesday in Tampa could cause a little self-doubt in the minds of the defending champions, who lead the best-of-seven series 3-1.
“A win in Tampa could have that kind of effect,” Montreal coach Dominque Ducharme said. “We’re going on the road. We wanted the chance to play that game. We want to come back to the Bell Centre (in Montreal) to play at home.”
Montreal extended the series with a wild 3-2 overtime victory on Monday. The Canadiens twice blew a lead and then held off the Lightning power-play during a four-minute penalty assessed to captain Shea Weber with 61 seconds remaining in regulation before Josh Anderson scored the winning goal.
Wednesday’s game comes with another wrinkle. Due to Tropical Storm Elsa, both clubs raced to Tampa earlier than expected on Tuesday and must hope the storm doesn’t cause havoc. The NHL said it expects the game to be played.
Then again, adversity is nothing new to the Canadiens, who had a midseason coaching change, were sidelined as a team for a week when players tested positive for COVID-19, erased a 3-1 series deficit to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round and even saw Ducharme leave for a couple of weeks in the playoffs after testing positive.
“This whole season has been kind of chaotic, kind of hectic,” Canadiens forward Corey Perry said before departing Montreal. “We’ve kind of gone through everything. between COVID, the way we played some nights to everything. And now, yeah … we are potentially going into a hurricane.
“Hopefully we get … to play that game (Wednesday) night and then come back here. We’re looking forward to the challenge that’s ahead of us and we’ll be ready.”
The Canadiens must be ready because the Lightning want to make amends for failing on their first chance to claim the Stanley Cup.
“We missed an opportunity. Our group knows that,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “You turn the page quick here this morning and realize what a great opportunity you have here as a team, as a group. We’re up 3-1 in the series, you have to win one more going into a place you’re familiar with, a fan base behind us. Try to win one game.”
The situation is familiar to the Lightning. They had the chance to win the Stanley Cup last year in Game 5 against the Dallas Stars, but lost in overtime. Tampa Bay responded with a fantastic effort to win the next game 2-0. The Lightning haven’t lost consecutive playoff games since losing in the opening round in 2019.
“At the end of the day, you hate to lose. Sometimes you hate to lose more than you like to win. That’s probably the identity of this group,” McDonagh said. “We’re all competitors and it bleeds right down from our coaching staff too, giving us a plan and having us go out and execute and putting in a lot of time and effort. We’ve got to have that mindset right from the start and go from there.”
The Lightning could be the first team to win the Cup at home since the Chicago Blackhawks beat them in 2015 Final. As much as winning via sweep would have been great, claiming the title in front of friends, family and fans would be a whale of a consolation.
“Our fans have been unbelievable all season through the ups and downs,” forward Anthony Cirelli said. “So to go back to Amalie (Arena) and play for our fans is always is always pretty special, and an opportunity.”
–Field Level Media