Three-Point Nights From Kucherov, Point Lead Lightning To Game 1 Win Over Habs

TAMPA – Nine months ago Monday night the Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars in the Edmonton bubble to win their second Stanley Cup.

On Monday night, the Lightning opened their fourth Cup final with a 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens at Amalie Arena in front of 15,911 charged fans.

Nikita Kucherov had a goal and two assists and Brayden Point had three assists to lead Tampa Bay, which broke open a tight game with three third-period goals.

“We just stuck to our plan and tried to play the same way the full 60 minutes,” said Kucherov, of their first meeting with Montreal since the final game at Amalie prior to the pandemic shutting things down last March.

The Lightning opened the scoring when Erik Cernak redirected an Ondrej Palat pass over Montreal goalie Carey Price’s left shoulder for his first career playoff goal at 6:19 of the first period.

“Our plan is to try to spark the offense and make some plays for our forwards,” said Cernak, of the defense contributing to the attack.

Later in the period, the penalty killing unit stifled the Canadiens’ attempt to knot the score. After Barclay Goodrow went off for cross checking at 16:21, the Lightning did not allow a shot on goal.

Tampa Bay took a 2-0 lead at 5:47 of the second when Goodrow’s shot attempt was blocked and Blake Coleman gathered the loose puck in the slot and wristed a shot past Price.

About three minutes later, Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped Shea Weber on a breakaway to preserve the two-goal lead. At least for the time being.

“Our goalie had to make some big-time saves,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “There were a couple of times we got burned and he saved us.”

The Canadiens got on the board with 2:20 remaining in the middle period when Ben Chiarot’s right point shot pinballed off Anthony Cirelli and Ryan McDonagh and behind Vasilevskiy, who could do nothing about it.

The Lightning restored their two-goal lead two minutes into the third period when Kucherov sent a backhand from the right circle that Chiarot attempted to swat out of harm’s way with his glove, only to have Palat bat the puck out of the air and behind Price.

Kucherov buried a wrister from the slot just outside the right circle with 8:35 left to make it 4-1 and Steven Stamkos added a powerplay goal with 1:10 left in the match to top off the scoring.

“I am enjoying the moment and I am happy to be with the boys and happy to be in the final,” said Kucherov, when asked about enjoying this postseason run after missing the regular season due to a hip injury.

Speaking of injuries, Alex Killorn took a shot off his left ankle area in the second period and returned. However, his return was brief as he had only a shift or two in the third period. Cooper did not have an update.

Game 2 is Wednesday night (8:00) at Amalie.

Tom Layberger has been a sports writer and editor since 1990. Among the companies he has worked for are Beckett Publishing, The Topps Company and Comcast. In addition to being a contributing writer for, Tom also writes for and Tampa Bay Business & Wealth Magazine. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs and a University of South Florida grad, Tom is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. He resides in Tampa.