In 2011, the Montreal Canadiens surprised everybody by taking a 2-0 lead in Boston against the Bruins before coming home to the Bell Centre in Montreal. And losing both games.
A lot of players were on that 2011 team that lost in overtime of Game 7. Brian Gionta, Lars Eller, Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges among others. Their coach was not Michel Therrien that year, but he also knows the perils of a 2-0 series lead coming home.
In fact, in 2006, he was the coach of the Canadiens when they took a 2-0 lead in Carolina against the Hurricanes and Martin Gerber. Then, in Game 3, Cam Ward came in, Saku Koivu was lost for the series after a high stick and the rest was history.
There are no excuses for this Montreal team, and the fact this the 2014 version is much better than either of the teams that lost those 2-0 leads. When Saku Koivu went down in 2006, the replacement for the top line was Steve Begin. In 2011, the Bruins were a lot better than this Lightning team.
Both coach and players know that the microscope will be out for when they play Game 3 tonight at the Bell Centre. But, while the Canadiens have experience of playing in Montreal in the playoffs, the Lightning are the ones who need to force the issue and without Ben Bishop. It remains to be seen whether that can be done.
However, if the Canadiens play like they did in the game on Friday night, the Lightning will have more than just the crowd to deal with. The Canadiens have stepped up their play from the regular season, and seem to have built to this playoff moment. The Lightning, without their top goaltender – and on Friday – without their top scorer Ondrej Palat, haven’t done the same.
Game 3 might end up being the most important game of the series. Lose, and the Lightning are right back in the series. Win, and you all but eliminate hope. All they have to do is look back at the last time they were in this situation. I wouldn’t expect them to come out flat.