By Abigail Hope

TB Lightning hits early and often to secure the lead over the Canadiens 5-1.

Game 1 of the NHL 2021 Stanley Cup Finals belongs to Tampa. The Bolts showed determination early in the game and held onto momentum until the final horn. Their last win over the Islanders gave them the opportunity to return to the Stanley Cup Finals but many questioned whether or not they would be able to defend their title. Defeating the Islanders was an accomplishment within itself but, for the Bolts, it wasn’t enough and they made sure to leave their mark on the Canadiens. Vasilevskiy held his own, as expected, and only let one get behind him into the net.

Here’s how it happened:

The first Lightning power-play came in the first period and Kucherov got targeted, at least it looked like it should have been called a slash, but as we know in the playoffs a lot of penalties in the regular season the official let slide. 1-0 Lightning.

The Bolts began period two with a power play, and Canadiens won the face-off. Great defensive work by the Canadiens penalty kill made it hard for Tampa to get into their offensive zone early in the second. On the opposite end, the Habs were able to get some shots off, but mostly the action was back and forth and face-offs were controlled by Lightning. We saw an impressive stop by Carey Price, refusing to let Steven Stamkos put up a point. Blake Coleman’s goal turned the Bolts engine up to overdrive as they started to heat up. 2-0. At this point in the second, the Canadiens only had 8 shots on goal and the ones that did make it to Vasilevskiy were denied. Alex Killorn put his body on the line to block the puck.  That showed us why he’s one of the leaders of his team and that the Bolts would only settle for one outcome tonight. Stamkos talked about how the Bolts play with an attack mentality. In Game 1, the Canadiens helped fuel their attack and the Bolts did not let up the pressure. With under 3 minutes to spare, Habs Ben Chariot scored to make it 2-1 Lightning.

The third period started out exciting if you are a Lightning fan. Both the Bolts and Habs have fantastic goalies which will make for a great series, but as we saw last night, Tampa was ultimately the sharper and more refined team. Tampa Bay was able to capitalize and make it 3-1 when a Canadian player practically hit it from the air into his own goal, Chariot tried to bat the puck away but was not successful. Then, because it wouldn’t be hockey without it, Pat Maroon and Josh Anderson broke into a fight. Canadiens: Nicholas Suzuki and his line were quiet last night. Only three shots from that line combined and they all combined for a -6 for the night.  Obviously, that did not bode well for the Habs, as no teammates stepped up. With thirteen minutes left in regulation, the Lightning had a 3-1 lead and looked crisp. Each team had almost 50 hits. The game was high tension, and exciting, just as we expected it to be. Tampa led shots on goal 20-15 at this point of the night. Kucherov then made the lead even more comfortable, 4-1. The Lightning scored off a face-off left-handed sweet shot. Brayden Point had his first scoreless game in 9 games, but his help on the faceoff set up Kucherov to take a wicked top right corner shot. Kuch was healthy and showed everyone he was here for the Cup. With more great defense by Tampa Bay, the Canadiens just were given no opportunities. Then, Mikhail Sergachev went at it with Brendan Gallagher, who hit his forehead hard on the ice, resulting in a penalty against Sergachev and the Habs second power play, which they did not capitalize on. A power-play opportunity then came for Tampa Bay who chose to put 5 forwards on the ice for the man-up play. Stamkos made it 5-1 Bolts and put to rest any doubts that Tampa Bay isn’t serious about going back to back, and the Canadiens were left beaten.

The action continues tomorrow night at 7 pm, and the Bolts look to keep the winning streak alive in Game 2.