Jeff Griffith-USA TODAY Sports
It wasn’t pretty, but the Montreal Canadiens are going to the playoffs for the second year in a row.
They would probably have liked to clinch a spot due to a win, but with the Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils losing, it is now impossible for the Canadiens to miss out on the post-season.
The Canadiens lost 3-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in what was a game that was closer than the score indicated. The Canadiens actually led the 5-on-5 Fenwick battle for the game, but were way too undisciplined and a brutal giveaway by David Desharnais led to a short-handed goal.
Carey Price was phenomenal and may have played his best game of the season. If he is rounding into form right now, that’s huge for the Canadiens playoff chances. It is actually the opposite of last year when Price struggled going into the playoffs.
Douglas Murray will almost definitely be suspended for his hit on Mike Kostka which really cost the Canadiens any chance of winning the game. It was a play that was reactionary because he wasn’t quick enough to get to where he wanted to. It’s Murray in a nutshell and why he should never play another game this season. When Jarred Tinordi enters the lineup and Josh Gorges comes back, Murray and Francis Bouillon should stay in the press box.
Murray will have a phone hearing with the National Hockey League which means a maximum of five games.
If these two teams meet in the playoffs, it will be a pretty close battle. There’s star power on both sides and it will probably come down to which goaltender blinks first. Ben Bishop has had the Canadiens number since he was traded to Ottawa and eventually to Tampa Bay.
The Canadiens do need to get their power play going. When you get chances with the extra man, you need to take advantage and right now it’s just not happening. We see some chances – and Max Pacioretty just missed an empty net – but it needs to be the consistent threat it was a few years ago. It has the talent.
All in all, it was a tight game that just shows how close these two teams are. A playoff series is really up in the air as this was the only game decided by more than one goal (and it was an empty net goal) and that was decided after 60 minutes. The Canadiens are now underdogs to get home ice advantage in the series but the home team only won one of the four games between the two teams this season.