On this side, there is a team with the series lead.
On that side, there is a team with the series momentum.
The Canadiens won their second straight game of the series Saturday night in Montreal, taking a 2-1 decision when, for the third straight game, it was the most desperate team on the ice. Tampa Bay still holds a 3-2 lead in the series, and it has won eight of the 10 meetings between the teams.
Still, it feels as if the air is getting thinner, and as if there are cracks in the ice.
Only moments ago, it seems, the Lightning had a 3-0 lead, and it was the Montreal players who were muttering to themselves. Now, however, Montreal feels as if it is controlling play, and the Lightning has begun to sound like team that questions itself after each game.
If the Lightning can feel good about anything, it is that it won at home more than any team in the NHL this year, a staggering 30 times. However, the Bolts are only 3-3 at home during the playoffs.
If Montreal can win one more time, it would force a Game Seven back in Canada.
For a moment there Saturday, this game felt like one of those that Tampa Bay has pulled out of the fire regularly this season. It was 1-0, Montreal, halfway through the third period when Steven Stamkos, remember him, found the net for the Bolts. For Tampa Bay, it was like saying hello to a stranger. In 12 playoff games this year, Stamkos had scored only one goal, and you were starting to understand why Montreal’s defense is so highly regarded.
There have been games when that push would spark the Lightning to find a goal-ahead goal and salvage the game. But this time, it was not to be.
The tie lasted 6:30 until P.A. Parenteau scored the eventual winner. After that, it was Carey Price’s game, and he showed why his early series vulnerability was so rare.
Early this series, it seemed that Montreal could not buy a break. The Canadiens lost the first three games, running it’s losing streak against the Bolts to eight games, and goaltender Ben Bishop was outplaying Price.
But Montreal outplayed the Bolts in a Game Three loss, and now it has won Games Four and Games Five, and is Tampa Bay that is talking about not being about to match the desperation of the Habs. This time, it was goaltender Bishop who talked about playing only half the game. It has become a familiar sound in the Bolts’ dressing room, this dissatisfaction over how the team has played.
Over the history of the Lightning, there have been huge matchups at home. There was Game Seven of the Stanley Cup series against Calgary. There was Game Seven against the Flyers in the semis that year. There was Game Six in the Eastern Conference finals against Boston.
Tuesday night will stand with most of those. For the Lightning, a team that has been outshot in five straight games, it is time to show why it has such great offense, and why it has been so good at home.