A hot goalie.
A hotter center.
A slump-breaking forward.
For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it added up to just enough for a 2-1 win in double-overrime as the Bolts got off a good start in their second-round playoff against the Montreal Canadiens Friday night.
Tampa Bay stole the home ice advantage against the remarkable Carey Price, eliminating the possibilitly of a second-straight sweep at the hands of Montreal. The Lightning’s own goaltender, Ben Bishop, actually outplayed Price, stopping 43 out of 44 shots. Price has now stopped 74 of the last 75 shots he has faced.
The hero this time was Nikita Kucherov, who had not scored a goal in the opening-round series after getting 29 in the regular season. Kucherov finally ended the post-season torture the Lighing had suffered in Montreal.
In his career, Kucherov had only scored one in nine games. Kucherov had appeared to have scored the winner in the first overtime, but a referee determined he had pushed Price into the net on the play.
This time, however, he slapped a one-timer past Price 126 seconds in the second overtime for the winner.
Montreal coach Michel Therrien cried foul afterward, saying that a Lighting player was “clearly” offsides on the winning goal.
Tyler Johnson had scored his seventh goal of the playoffs earlier. This season, the Lighting outscored Montreal 21-8 during the regular season, and Price – perhaps the favorite to win league MVP – was 0-4-1.
The teams play again Saturday, then come to Tampa for games three and four on Wednesday and Thursday night.