Nikita Kucherov leads Lightning to rout over Canadiens in Game 1 of Stanley Cup

Kucherov had two goals and an assist and Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with 18 saves to outplay Carey Price and lead the Lightning to a 5-1 victory over the Canadiens.

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The Canadiens’ Cole Caufield reacts in disgust as the Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov celebrates one of his two goals with teammates in the third period.

The Canadiens’ Cole Caufield reacts in disgust as the Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov celebrates one of his two goals with teammates in the third period.

Mike Carlson/Getty Images

TAMPA, Fla. — Playoff scoring leader Nikita Kucherov had two goals and an assist and Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with 18 saves to outplay Carey Price and lead the Lightning to a 5-1 victory over the Canadiens in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday.

Kucherov put the defending champs up 3-1 early in the third period with a fluky goal that Canadiens defenseman Ben Chiarot tried to bat down with his hand before it wound up in the net.

Kucherov scored again at 11:25 of the third, then assisted on Steven Stamkos’ power-play goal that made it 5-1 with just over a minute to go. The Canadiens had not given up a power-play goal in an NHL playoff-record 13 consecutive games.

Price allowed five goals for the first time this postseason.

Game 2 is Wednesday in Tampa.

Vasilevskiy, a favorite to win the Vezina Trophy for the second time in three years, lost a bid for a fifth shutout this postseason when Chiarot scored his first career playoff goal for the Canadiens late in the second period.

The Russian goaltender blanked the Islanders twice in the semifinals, including 1-0 in Game 7. Chiarot’s goal ended Vasilevskiy’s streak of not yielding a goal at 97 minutes, 40 seconds.

Chiarot hit the post early in the second period with his team trailing 1-0. He finally got Montreal on the scoreboard when a shot that deflected off Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev eventually made it through Vasilevskiy at 17:40 of the period.

Cernak also scored his first career postseason goal. The defenseman playing in his 46th playoff game beat Price, who was making his Stanley Cup Final debut in his 14th season with the Canadiens, from the slot off a pass from Ondrej Palat at 6:19 of the first period.

Gourde redirected Blake Coleman’s shot for a 2-0 lead at 5:47 of the second.

Playoff goals leader Brayden Point also assisted Cernak’s goal for Tampa Bay, which had never won Game 1 of a Stanley Cup Final. Point missed the net on a power-play opportunity, and Price made a nice glove save to deny Stamkos from adding to Montreal’s deficit.

Montreal forward Joel Armia was scratched after being cleared from COVID-19 protocol and being flown by private jet to Florida earlier in the day.

NOTES: The league announced it will hold All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas in 2022, with exact dates to be determined. 

• The Wild will host the Blues in the 13th Winter Classic at Target Field, the home of MLB’s Twins, on Jan. 1. 

• The NHL Stadium Series will see Nashville host Tampa Bay on Feb. 26 at Nissan Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Titans.

• The Expansion Draft will be held July 21 at 7 p.m. and the NHL Draft on July 23 at 7 p.m. Both will be televised on ESPN2.

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