An exasperated Lauren got at this after Game 1, but the formula for beating the Lightning—especially if you’re a team with such a comparative talent deficit as the Canadiens—is a comically long equation, and you can’t skip a step. (Maybe it’s why no one has beaten the Lightning when it really matters for two years now.) You’ve got to outskate them and outwork them, sure, but you also need to get the lion’s share of puck luck, and you can’t make any mistakes. Ever. Never?, you ask, thinking you’re about to get one over on me by technicality. Not even in the neutral zone with six seconds left in the period, which surely isn’t enough time to make you pay for it? Ah.
The Canadiens solved for most of that long equation, controlling long stretches of Game 2 and outshooting the Lightning 43 to 23. (Per ESPN, it was the second-largest shot deficit for a team to win a Cup Final game by multiple goals since 1960.) They didn’t really solve an exquisite Andrei Vasilevskiy, who only allowed a double-deflected goal, though they made him work. But the Habs made a blunder, at a time on the game clock that 99 times of 100 leads to nothing. Not this time. Blake Coleman scored a diving, one-handed goal at 19:58.9 of the second period of what was then a deadlocked game, to give Tampa a lead it wouldn’t relinquish en route to a 3-1 victory and a commanding series lead. And it came off one the most consequential turnovers you’re likely to see.
With six seconds left in the period, the typically sure-sticked Phillip Danault, trying to corral a pass from Shea Weber, was checked off the puck by Coleman. When it eventually settled with Barclay Goodrow, Habs defenseman Ben Chiarot was unusually and unwisely aggressive, given the clock, coming out to challenge Goodrow, who simply chipped it past and around him. Two mistakes from two generally dependable Canadiens.
The Lightning got plenty of luck, too. It’s an implausibility that on his diving poke past Carey Price, Coleman got a stick on the puck but Danault did not. And it was more or less a coin flip that Goodrow even passed to Coleman in the first place—Coleman admitted he did not know exactly how much time was left, only that the horn was close, and he wasn’t sure if there’d be enough clock to pass instead of taking the shot himself.
“I knew time was tight, I could hear our bench yelling, ‘Shoot!'” Goodrow said. I suspect Price heard this as well, because he fully committed to the left side to cut off Goodrow’s angle, leaving the right side of the net vulnerable to a hard-charging Coleman.
“I saw Blake drive the net,” Goodrow continued, “so I figured if I could maybe get it over to him, it probably had a better chance of going in than me trying to shoot from where I was. So I went for it, and luckily we had enough time.” (The goal crossed the line with 1.1 seconds remaining, officials would determine.)
I do not mean to ascribe this goal or this win entirely or even mostly to luck and the Canadiens’ mistakes. Chance favors the prepared mind, as they say. It was preparation that had Jon Cooper again taking home-ice advantage of last change to match his tough little third line—which will likely be a cap casualty this summer and scatter to the winds—against the Habs’ defensive-minded shutdown line. And it was quite literally preparation and practice that had Coleman scoring a diving goal he’s scored before. Remember this?
“Literally, in my head I was like, ‘Did he just do that again?'” Cooper said. “Different scenarios, but it was remarkably similar. Just the timing was epic.”
So, it’s 2-0. It could be a worse 2-0 for Montreal, as far as it goes. They did a lot of good things in the first two games, and some of them even worked. They’ll hope to refine those and eliminate the mistakes, and they’ll have a home crowd (albeit a small one), and the chance to dog the Point line with the Danault line, and maybe they won’t put two defensemen out on a 4-on-3, and maybe if they can grab and play with a lead for the first time, things will wind up differently than they’ve gone so far. But that’s still an awful lot that has to go right.