NHL Stanley Cup Final 2021: Latest Odds and Lightning vs. Canadiens Predictions

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2021

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) deflects a shot by Montreal Canadiens right wing Corey Perry (94) during the third period in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup finals, Wednesday, June 30, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Lightning took a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night, defeating the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 at home. The score of Game 2 wasn't as lopsided it was in Game 1, and in many ways, this one felt even closer.

Game 1 featured a high-volume attack and some wild shots by the Lightning in traffic—two of which scored after deflections. This fit into Tampa Bay's game plan of creating havoc out in front of Montreal goaltender Carey Price.

"We have a game plan, and we have a recipe," Lightning center Steven Stamkos said, per the Associated Press. "And if we go out there, we believe that if we do the right things that we're going to get rewarded for it."

In Game 2, the Lighting were less successful in creating scoring opportunities and were outshot 43-23. They finished off opportunities when it mattered most, though, like late in the second period. The game was locked-up heading into the final frame before Blake Coleman's diving buzzer-beater at the end of the second:

Tampa Bay Lightning @TBLightning

What’s better than a buzzer beater? A DIVING buzzer beater 🤯 https://t.co/T5PY8VUnC1

Coleman's goal gave Tampa the momentum, and the Lightning took control in the final period. It was a better performance by Montreal overall, but the Canadiens need to capitalize on their own scoring opportunities if they're going to turn things around in Game 3.

"We're going to continue to get better, and we're going to find our offence and we're going to start scoring a few goals, and I think that'll give us some confidence that way," Canadiens assistant coach Luke Richardson said, per The Athletic's Arpon Basu.

The series now shifts to Montreal for the next two games.


Remaining 2021 Stanley Cup Final Schedule (TB Leads 2-0)

All times Eastern

Game 3: Lightning at Canadiens, Friday, July 2 at 8 p.m. (NBC)

Game 4: Lightning at Canadiens, Monday, July 5, at 8 p.m. (NBC)

Game 5: Canadiens at Lightning, Wednesday, July 7 at 8 p.m. (NBC)

Game 6: Lightning at Canadiens, Friday, July 9 at 8 p.m. (NBC)

Game 7: Canadiens at Lightning, Sunday, July 11 at 7 p.m. (NBC)


Odds to win series (via DraftKings): Tampa Bay -1250, Montreal +800


With the Canadiens gaining home-ice advantage for the next two games, there's a good chance that they will be able to at least send the series back to Tampa. The key—aside from turning shots on goal into actual goals—will be getting ahead early and playing the role of aggressor.

"This team plays well with the lead," Richardson said, per Basu. "And we've got to make sure to try and get that first goal next game if we can and play with the lead on them and try and turn the tables."

Montreal was on the defensive for most of Game 1, and it was a similar story in Game 2 after Coleman's momentum-shifter. It's worth noting, too, that both of the Canadiens' goals this series have come from the blue line.

Getting to the front of the net has been a problem for Montreal, and that's going to have to change if the Canadiens are going to challenge goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Vasilevskiy made 42 saves on Wednesday, and his stellar play helped the Lighting survive an early stretch during which Montreal seemed to have control.

"There were peaks and valleys in our game, but (Vasilevskiy) stood tall when we were down," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said, per Mike Brehm of USA Today.

Expect the Canadiens to better test Vasilevskiy over the next two games. They'll have to, because pure shot volume isn't going to win this series. Montreal's defense was good enough in Game 2—Tampa didn't score until six minutes, 40 seconds in the second period—but one goal is rarely enough to beat the Lightning.

Tampa was last shut out on May 1, long before the postseason.

The good news for Montreal is that they played better in Game 2 and can carry a bit of moral momentum back home. The Canadiens know that they can keep the scoring relatively low and that with a few more high-percentage shots, they can beat the defending champs.

Expect Montreal to rebound in Game 3, scoring early and keeping the pressure on for all three periods. The big question is whether the Canadiens can keep the momentum long enough to even the series.

Prediction: Montreal wins the next one 3-2, Lighting win the series in six.


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