Nikita Kucherov won Game 1 for Tampa Bay twice. While his second OT winner counted, a closer look suggests both his goals were bogus.
Let's start with some deep breathing. In through our noses, out through our mouths. There's a lot to take in after Game 1 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens, isn't there? Bolts goalie Ben Bishop led us on a rollercoaster. He was sensational most of the game before failing to catch Max Pacioretty's
line drive to right field. Bishop suddenly looked like the goat of Game 1. He gave his team a scare after taking a David Desharnais slapshot off the mask to end the first overtime. In the end, though, Bishop stopped 43 of 44 shots for the win. If Bishop can cut the lapses in focus out of his game, he can neutralize what is supposed to be Montreal's one crucial edge in the series: Carey Price. Tyler Johnson scored his seventh goal in eight playoff games and left during an injury scare of his own, only to return. There were about five games' worth of storylines Friday night alone. The one that mattered most involved Nikita Kucherov. Depending on your perspective:
(a) Tampa Bay should've been credited with a win in the first overtime on Kucherov's goal
(b) Tampa Bay was rightly credited with a win in the second overtime on Kucherov's other goal
(c) Neither of Kucherov's goals should've counted, and Game 1 should still be happening right now What a mess. First, let's look at Kucherov's breakaway near-tally in the first OT:
The puck crosses the goal line before the play is blown dead. And Price's blocker does swipe the puck into the net. So, at first glance, it appears Tampa has a case. But since Kucherov's stick presses into Price's right pad, it's Kucherov's momentum that pushes Price into the net. It's an illegal move, which means no-goal. The call on the ice was right. Lightning coach Jon Cooper eventually conceded as much. And what a breakaway save by Price. But it wasn't enough to save the game. Kucherov made good in the second overtime:
But, oh dear, even this one was complicated. A freeze frame earlier in the shift, when the Lightning gained the zone, revealed they were offside:
It's pretty cut and dried. Brian Boyle has not breached the blueline with the puck, and we can see white ice between Kucherov and the blueline. Michel Therrien and the Habs have a case. Neither of Kucherov's goals should have counted. But the second one did, and there's no turning back. So the Habs are left sweating a bit after Game 1. They've lost their home-ice advantage, and their inability to score continues to be a problem. They fall to 0-6 against the Lightning this season and have scored a grand total of nine goals in roughly 20 periods. Price had a .943 SP Friday and lost. If Game 1 doesn't highlight how badly he needs offensive support, nothing does.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin