It took the Montreal Canadiens 28 years to get back to the Stanley Cup final. They’ll have to wait a little longer for a win.
The defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning dominated the Habs from start to finish Monday, taking Game 1 in a lopsided 5-1 contest.
Game 2 goes Wednesday, also in Tampa.
Erik Cernak opened the scoring six minutes into the first period when his outstretched stick tipped a pass from Ondrej Palat past the glove of a surprised Carey Price.
Nikita Kucherov, with a pair of goals, Steven Stamkos and Yanni Gourde also scored for Tampa Bay, while Ben Chiarot managed the lone marker for Montreal.
Price stopped 14 of 19 shots, while at the other end of the ice, Bolts rival Andrei Vasilevskiy was stellar, allowing just the lone goal on 26 shots.
Montreal went 0-for-2 on the power play, while Stamkos scored the only power play goal for the Bolts on three chances.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invited U.S. President Joe Biden to a “friendly wager” on the final, as is customary in cross-border contests.
“You’re on, pal,” Biden’s account tweeted back. Details of the stakes were not immediately available.
The Canadiens went without forward Joel Armia, who travelled to Florida via private jet Monday to await a game-time decision after COVID-19 protocols initially forced the team to leave him behind.
Few expected the Canadiens to make it this far, so the appearance of a mismatch in the final is hardly surprising.
Montreal came from 3-1 down in their opening-round series to stun the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games, then swept the Jets and downed the favoured Vegas Golden Knights in six games.
The Habs are trying to win Canada’s first Stanley Cup since they themselves brought it home in 1993. The Lightning present their toughest challenge — a fact that was abundantly obvious Monday.
Montreal head coach Dominique Ducharme, who has been isolating since Game 2 of the semifinals due to a positive COVID-19 test, is scheduled to return to the Habs bench for Game 3.
Tampa’s power play, meanwhile, is one of the best in the business, scoring on 45.5 per cent of its chances at home and 37.7 per cent overall so far in the post-season.
James McCarten, The Canadian Press