The Montreal Canadiens are still alive in the Stanley Cup final.
Josh Anderson scored his second goal of the game at 3:57 of overtime as the host Canadiens defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Monday to stave off elimination and cut their deficit in the NHL’s title series to 3-1.
After Montreal survived a Tampa power play in the extra period, Anderson banged home a loose puck at the side of Tampa’s net to keep his team alive.
Alexander Romanov also scored for Montreal, which got 32 saves from Carey Price. Cole Caufield added two assists.
Barclay Goodrow and Pat Maroon replied for Tampa. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 18 shots.
Game 5 of the best-of-seven matchup is set for Wednesday in Tampa. Game 6, if necessary, would be back in Montreal on Friday.
The Lightning are aiming to repeat as champions and claim the franchise’s third Cup, while the Canadiens took the first step towards matching the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs as the only teams in NHL history to battle back from down 0-3 in the final to hoist hockey’s holy grail.
Montreal is also trying for its 25th Cup — and Canada’s first — since the franchise’s last title in 1993. The Canadiens improved to 8-1 all-time when facing elimination on home ice in the final.
Inserted into the lineup with the Canadiens looking for a spark, Romanov scored the first playoff goal of his career in the rookie’s third post-season game at 8:48 of the third period to give Montreal a 2-1 lead and send the Bell Centre into a frenzy.
But Maroon tied it off the rush exactly five minutes later at 13:48 with his second on a 2-on-1 with Mathieu Joseph.
Playoff scoring leader Nikita Kucherov had a great chance at the side of Price’s net late in regulation, but couldn’t connect with the series and Cup on his stick.
Montreal captain Shea Weber was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking with 1:01 left on the clock, but the Canadiens survived the first minute of the man advantage to force OT.
Price then made a couple big saves in the extra period to kill off the penalty before Anderson won it on a bull rush into the Tampa end.
The Canadiens shook things up facing elimination by dressing centre Jake Evans for Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Kulak and Romanov for Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson on the blue line, while interim head coach Dominique Ducharme mixed up three of his four lines in search of a spark.
With Hall of Famers Yvon Cournoyer, Guy LaFleur and Patrick Roy looking on from a private suite at the Bell Centre, Tampa flew out of the starting blocks, while Montreal was stuck in neutral for most of the opening period.
The Lightning led 8-0 on the shot clock before the Canadiens forced Vasilevskiy into a save, but made the most of their second effort on target.
Nick Suzuki and Caufield worked a slick give-and-go to enter the offensive zone before the former feathered a pass from below the goal line to Anderson for him to bury his fourth of the playoffs at 15:39 and give Montreal its first lead of the series with the shot clock reading 11-2 for the visitors.
The Canadiens nearly scored on the very next shift off a scramble in front of Vasilevskiy, but were fortunate to be up 1-0 through 20 minutes after Brayden Point wired a shot off the post on a late Lightning power play.
Anderson had a couple of chances on Montreal’s first man advantage of the night in the second — Weber pasted Point into the boards after he exited the box and was looking to move in on Price — before the home side ran into some penalty trouble.
The Canadiens survived a Corey Perry infraction and another on Joel Armia, but Tampa defenceman Victor Hedman came close on a shot that beat Price only to clank off the iron.
The Lightning would finally get level with 2:40 left on a great sequence by Ryan McDonagh. The blue-liner stepped up to disrupt Jeff Petry’s outlet pass and then stayed down low to collect Blake Coleman’s rebound and find Goodrow in front on a behind-the-back feed for his second of the post-season to send the teams to the locker rooms tied 1-1 through 40 minutes.
While there’s still a steep mountain to climb, the Canadiens are used to adversity in 2021. They endured a coaching change, COVID-19 outbreak, key injuries and long losing streaks to qualify as the last club to make the playoffs with the NHL’s 18th-best record.
Montreal sat as massive underdog against the Leafs, Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights in the first three rounds, but found a way at every turn through a combination of outstanding goaltending, grit, determination, and some good fortune.
THE CANADIAN PRESS