USATSI_8563894_154158418_lowresThe Tampa Bay Lightning have knocked off the Montreal Canadiens with a 4-1 Tuesday night victory that saw them close out the series four games to two.

Tampa forward Nikita Kucherov had two goals and an assist in the win, while Steven Stamkos emerged with a goal. Ondrej Palat had a goal and an assist as well, while Max Pacioretty had the lone marker for the Habs.

Montreal had no room to move on Tuesday night, with the Lightning controlling the bulk of the play. Tampa had 28 shots on goal, including 13 in the first period. The Habs mustered up 19 and only had six shots on target in a lacklustre third period. Tampa went one for two on the power play and had 33 hits to Montreal’s 22. They also dominated the faceoff circle, winning 36.

Plainly put, the Lightning did not want to play in a Game Seven situation. They didn’t want things to return to the Bell Centre in Montreal.

They started with a 3-0 series lead, too, and let the Canadiens hop back in it.

In part, Montreal was able to make it interesting because of the play of goalie Carey Price. He faced a ton of shots in Game Six and allowed three goals (the fourth was an empty-netter).

Price was tested often in Game Six because Tampa was able to control the puck. They struggled to do this throughout the series, but when it really counted the Lightning were on the ball. They held Montreal out of shooting position, at one point blocking them out from taking a shot for over 10 minutes.

In the minds of many fans, Price was THE reason the Habs had a chance at all. Many point to his critical Game Four stop on J.T. Brown as a turning point, but many others pointed to his regular season struggles against the Lightning as evidence of his humanity. Even Tampa coach Jon Cooper noted his team’s ability to “succeed” against Price, planting just the slightest seed of doubt. It worked.

Tampa goalie Ben Bishop played well enough to win, although there were some hiccups in the series. He did close it out when it mattered, posting a 1.81 goals against average thus far with a .931 save percentage.

And now, Tampa heads for their first conference final since 2011. Only Stamkos and defenceman Victor Hedman remain from that roster.

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