The NHL playoffs has its first team into the second round, as the Montreal Canadiens completed a four-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning last night. Max Pacioretty scored with under a minute to play to break a 3-3 tie and bring an end to a series that looked even at the outset, but proved to be no contest.
In fairness to Tampa Bay, once goalie Ben Bishop wasn’t able to go, there were basically up the wrong creek. Anders Lindback was completely inadequate for playoff competition and he was chased midway through Game 4.
But it also has to be said—and in fact has been said in this space through the first three games, that Tampa’s Ryan Callahan was completely AWOL for the entire series. I’m not just talking about scoring—in a short series that can be stopped by a hot goalie, although Montreal’s Carey Price was anything but. Callahan, unbelievably, only attempted five shots in a four-game stretch.
That’s not the kind of help Steven Stamkos needed. The Lightning star had his moments, but not nearly enough of them and he never had support.
Meanwhile, Montreal just played excellent team hockey. Defensemen P.K. Subban had five assists. Lars Eller scored twice and had three more assists, while Brendan Gallagher lit the lamp three times in the course of the series. It was enough for the Canadiens to win even with the normally reliable Price having a couple games—including last night—where he looked a little shaky in the net.
Montreal now has some down time until the finals of the Atlantic Division bracket, where they will draw either the Boston Bruins or Detroit Red Wings, a series the Bruins presently lead 2-1.