The Montreal Canadiens clawed back from a three games to none deficit against the Tampa Bay Lightning to make it 3-2. Who has the advantage is now a matter of perspective.
"If we could've started the series saying we're up 3-2 to play an elimination game here at home, I think no matter who had the momentum going into the game, we would've loved that opportunity," Lightning forward Brendan Morrow said.
Likewise, the Canadiens will take the opportunity of playing Game 6 at Amalie Arena on Tuesday, still alive after winning two straight. Coach Michel Therrien is a firm believer that his team is trending the right way after dominating play for the past three games.
"We're reacting with confidence that we'll be able to accomplish what we're supposed to do every game," Therrien said on a conference call Sunday afternoon from Tampa, Fla. "I know our team's going to be well-prepared, and the only thing we're looking for is Game 7 in Montreal."
After missing two chances to eliminate the Habs, the Lightning face a much different challenge in Game 6 at home. A week after looking for a sweep, they're trying to avoid going back to Bell Centre.
Along the way their winning streak against Montreal ended at eight, their lead in the series was cut down to 3-2 and Carey Price found his groove.
The Habs' elite goaltender stopped 46 of 49 shots in elimination Games 4 and 5 for a .938 save percentage after being sub-.900 in his first eight matchups against Tampa Bay this season.
"We've had success against Carey Price," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "So he, to us, is not the mental block just because we've played them so many times in the last couple years and we look back and his numbers against the Tampa Bay Lightning are very pedestrian compared to the rest of the teams."
Price was very good again at Bell Centre on Saturday night but hasn't yet stolen a game in this series the way he did to close out the Ottawa Senators in Game 6 of the first round. The Vezina and Hart Trophy finalist stopped all 43 shots he faced to make sure the Habs and Senators didn't get to a Game 7.
"I think we have all the trust we need in Carey the whole season," forward Lars Eller said. "We're confident that he's going to give us a chance to win every game, and I'm sure he's going to do that again (in Game 6)."
Now Price's job is to help get Montreal back for Game 7 and Ben Bishop's task is to get the Lightning into the Eastern Conference final. Bishop allowed three goals on 14 shots in Game 4 but other than that has been just as good as Price for the majority of the series.
Morrow said the onus is on him and his teammates to turn up the heat on Price.
"The Canadiens, they're doing a great job of putting pressure on Bish and making life miserable for him, and we need to do the same for Carey," Morrow said. "He's made some big saves, timely saves, for that team. I think we've been guilty of making it a little bit too easy for him, as well."
This looked like it would be an easy series for the Lightning when they won the first two games in Montreal and then took a three games to none lead. Cooper and players pointed to turnovers as the biggest culprit for loosening their stranglehold on the series.
But they also wouldn't trade places with the Habs.
"We're up 3-2, and I'd rather take that than being down 3-2, going into our building," defenceman Victor Hedman said. "It really doesn't matter how you get there. I think it's a new game come Tuesday. I'm excited the position that we're in."
Eller called Montreal's energy level "as high as it's ever been." But as much as Therrien talked about changing momentum, the 26-year-old doesn't want to look at Game 6 as a piece of cake.
"I don't like those words of 'momentum shift' or 'advantage' because it makes it sound like it's going to be easier," Eller said. "I think this game's going to be harder and harder, if anything. But we approach these games like it's Game 7 for us every single night, and it is because if we don't win, it's over."
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