Blake Coleman’s diving goal that just beat the second-period buzzer for the game-winner in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 3-1 home victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday could be a defining moment in the Stanley Cup Final.
Amazingly, that goal, which helped the defending Stanley Cup champions grab a 2-0 lead in the series, wasn’t the first time he created such magic.
Coleman scored a similar goal last year as the Lightning knocked out the Boston Bruins en route to the championship. This time, though, the timing was — in the words of coach Jon Cooper — more epic.
“It’s just kind of a reflex, really,” Coleman said. “I don’t think anyone’s really planning to dive on the ice, but in that moment, it’s all we had. I don’t know why these goals happen.”
Anthony Cirelli and Ondrej Palat also scored in the win, and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy turned in a 42-save performance, but Coleman’s play was unquestionably the highlight.
With the score tied 1-1, Barclay Goodrow rushed up ice after a neutral-zone turnover and sent a cross-ice pass in front. Coleman dove to chip the puck into the net with 1.1 seconds remaining in the middle frame.
“I knew the clock was winding down, but I saw (Goodrow) make that heads-up play in the neutral zone, that little poke past their defense, and I just tried everything I could to give him an option,” Coleman said. “Incredible area pass from him, and fortunately we beat the clock.”
Nick Suzuki scored the lone goal for the Canadiens, who were the better team from start to finish but weren’t rewarded. Goaltender Carey Price stopped 20 shots.
The best-of-seven series shifts to Montreal for Game 3 on Friday, and both teams know they must be better. From the Lightning perspective, Vasilevskiy was the difference.
“Vasy’s ‘on’ pretty much every night,” said Cooper, whose team has surrendered only 13 goals in its past 10 games. “It was more our team game was off. There were some remarkable individual performances, Vasy, Coleman and a couple of other guys, but it definitely was an unremarkable team game we had. Vasy, we’re used to seeing this.”
After a scoreless first period in which the Canadiens earned a 13-6 edge in shots and were holding their own, Cirelli opened the scoring 6:40 into the second period with a point shot.
Suzuki’s power-play goal just past the midway point of the second period evened the count, but despite a dominating performance — shots on goal after two periods were 29-13 for the Canadiens — the visitors couldn’t net a go-ahead goal.
Palat’s insurance goal with 4:18 remaining in the game rounded out the scoring.
The quest for the Canadiens is to fend off frustration after coming up short despite such a strong outing.
“We played a pretty solid game all around,” captain Shea Weber said. “We did make a couple of mistakes that hurt us. They’re an opportunistic team that can make you pay, but I thought we deserved a little bit better.”
The Canadiens can take solace in the fact they rebounded from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round of the playoffs. Even so, the next game is essentially a must-win.
“We don’t want the series to get away from us,” Suzuki said. “You’ve got to win your home games. We’re going home, play two games there and we have a good opportunity to bring a 2-2 series back here (to Tampa). We know what’s at stake, and we’ll be ready to go.”
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