NHL-No panic in Canadiens' camp after dropping Stanley Cup opener

·2-min read
NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Montreal Canadiens at Tampa Bay Lightning

(Reuters) - The Montreal Canadiens, who have managed to adapt to each of their opponents during a magical run to the Stanley Cup Final, are not about to hit the panic button after dropping the opening game of the NHL's championship series.

Turnovers proved costly during Montreal's 5-1 loss to the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday but they have no plans to shake up their line combinations when the best-of-seven games series resumes on Wednesday in Florida.

"Puck management was our difficulty. I don't necessarily think it was the combination of personnel," Montreal's acting head coach, Luke Richardson, told reporters on Tuesday.

"As of now we are ready to bounce back next game and make a few adjustments and corrections in our gameplan and executing it a lot better."

The Lightning, bidding to become only the third back-to-back Stanley Cup champions in the last quarter-century, made the most of three Montreal mistakes to build a commanding 3-1 lead early in the third period.

The first two costly errors came on offensive zone passes that Tampa Bay picked off and turned into counterattack rushes while the third resulted from an errant Montreal pass through the neutral zone.

"They are going to create their own offense, we don't have to help them in any way that's for sure," said Richardson, who took over head-coaching duties after Dominique Ducharme tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago.

"If we can limit that to very little to none we are going to give ourselves a better chance to have more energy for our own gameplan and have a bit more success."

Montreal will surely take some confidence after having been in a similar position the previous round where they fell 4-1 in the series opener versus the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Canadiens, who had the worst record among the 16 teams who reached the playoffs, made the necessary adjustments to win the following contest before going on to close out the best-of-seven series in six games.

Montreal will certainly have their hands full with the potent Lightning but are not about to back down from the challenge in their bid to end Canada's 28-year Stanley Cup drought.

"They definitely are as advertised: They are a good team, move the puck real well, skate really well," said Canadiens forward Nick Suzuki.

"We just got a taste of what they bring to the table and we just have to match that intensity, match their compete. I think we can definitely play with these guys."

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)

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