Josh Anderson jumped back into the play, and the Montreal Canadiens killed Tampa Bay’s chance for a Stanley Cup sweep.
Anderson scored his second goal 3:57 into overtime, and the Canadiens avoided elimination by defeating the defending champion Lightning 3-2 in Game 4 on Monday night.
Carey Price stopped 32 shots for Montreal, and rookie defenseman Alexander Romanov also scored.
The series shifts to Tampa Bay for Game 5 on Wednesday night.
Interim coach Dominique Ducharme’s lineup changes paid off as Romanov stepped up in just his third career playoff game. Anderson was shifted to a new line, playing alongside Nick Suzuki and rookie Cole Caufield in Ducharme’s bid to add more speed.
It wasn’t lost on Canadiens assistant captain Brendan Gallagher how Anderson provided his teammates with a rallying cry a day earlier when he said: “We’re not finished yet.”
“We understood the hole that we were in, but we just kind of talked about it: Find a way to win one game here,” Gallagher said. “(Anderson) stepped up and scored a couple of big goals for us. It’s going to be the same thing next game.”
Montreal became the first team to score in OT to avoid a sweep in the Stanley Cup Final since the Bruins did it in 1946 against the Canadiens, according to Stats.
Pat Maroon and Barclay Goodrow scored for the Lightning, who are attempting to become the NHL’s second team to win consecutive championships in the salary-cap era, which began in 2005. The Pittsburgh Penguins accomplished the feat with titles in 2016 and 2017.
Anderson got his second career playoff overtime goal after he forced a turnover at the blue line and outraced Jan Rutta and Yanni Gourde to a loose puck along the left boards. He then directed the puck toward the net, where Caufield got a piece of it but pushed it wide.
Anderson jumped back in front and knocked the puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy inside the left post.
Montreal werre outscored 14-5 in the first three games, including a sloppy 6-3 loss in Game 3 on Friday.
They got off to a better start Monday, thanks to Carey Price stopping 12 shots in the opening period and Anderson converting Suzuki’s centering pass at 15:39 for Montreal’s first lead of the series.
Though Tampa Bay rallied twice to tie, the Canadiens never relinquished the lead.
More important, Montreal’s penalty-killers went 5 for 5, including a four-minute high-sticking penalty issued to captain Shea Weber with 1:01 remaining in regulation.
Price made one of his best stops of the night when Brayden Point was set up in the slot 2:27 into OT. Lightning coach Jon Cooper called a timeout in a bid to give his top unit a rest with 33 seconds left in the penalty.
“Webby is our leader,” Gallagher said. “I think we would have killed it for anyone, but he’s been a rock for us since he’s come to our team.”
Montreal are accustomed to overcoming adversity. The Canadiens entered the playoffs with the worst record among the 16 qualifiers before rallying from a 3-1 series deficit against Toronto. Montreal then swept Winnipeg in the second round and eliminated Vegas in six games in the semi-finals to advance to their first final appearance in 28 years.
The Canadiens improved to 8-1 when facing elimination on home ice in the final.
“What could we have done different? Probably not hit as many posts as we hit,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
Victor Hedman had his arms raised when he thought he scored during a power-play opportunity with 4:16 left in the second. Replays showed Price got a piece of the shot with his blocker before the puck deflected off the left post.
“Sometimes you play pretty good and it’s a break here, a break there that just doesn’t go your way. You just go to keep working through it,” Cooper added. “No hanging our heads but I liked a lot of things we did tonight.”
The Lightning still get a chance to clinch the title on home ice and celebrate with their fans and – more importantly – family. It was something Tampa Bay were unable to do in the restricted-access bubble in Edmonton, Alberta, in September, when they defeated Dallas in six games for the title.
On Saturday, Canadian health officials denied the NHL an exemption to allow Lightning players’ immediate family members to travel to Montreal.
Tampa mayor Jane Castor may have got her wish in suggesting, a day earlier, that perhaps the Lightning “take it a little bit easy” in order to win back home.
Montreal still face a daunting climb.
In NHL playoff history, only four teams have rallied to win a series after losing the the first three games, with Toronto the only one to do so in the final in beating Detroit to win the Cup in 1942. The Los Angeles Kings were the last team to overcome a 3-0 series deficit by beating San Jose in a 2014 first-round series.