Tampa Bay Lightning: 10 Best Performances In Franchise History

7 of 11

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

5. Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens

Lightning sweep Canadians in Eastern Conference Semi-Finals 

April 23-29, 2004 

If I were to cast a vote for the most impressive playoff series in Tampa Bay Lightning history, the series sweep against the Montreal Canadians would top my list. The Lightning dominated the entire series from the opening puck drop of game one at the St. Pete Times Forum, and helped lead the Bolts to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Game one was the Nikolai Khabibulin show. In the team’s 4-0 win in game one, the Lightning goaltender earned his fourth shutout of the postseason when he blanked Montreal in the first game of the series. Two Vincent Lecavalier goals helped get the Bolts out in front while Ruslan Fedotenko and Dmitri Afanasenkov would add the other two goals.

Game two saw more of the same, but this time Montreal actually get the puck by Khabibulin once. Lecavalier would add two more goals to give him four in two games and teammate Freddy Modin would add the third in the Lightning win. Saku Koivu scored the only goal for the Canadians in the game two loss.

As the series moved to Bell Centre in Montreal, the games began to become more evenly matched. Montreal knew their backs were against the wall and they came out on fire when game three started. The first period had nothing but penalties as both teams wanted to set the tone early. However, as the page turned to the second period, The teams would trade goals for the next two periods with Vinny Lecavalier, Cory Stillman, and Brad Richards scoring for the Lightning and Alex Kovalev, Michael Rider, and Patrice Brisebois scoring for Montreal.

The game would go into overtime after regulation time ended with both teams scoring three goals a piece. Just a minute into the extra frame, Brad Richards struck again and put the puck past Habs netminder Jose Theodore to give the Lightning the 4-3 win. The Bolts now had a 3-0 series advantage and the chance to clinch a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals in enemy territory.

In game four, knowing it was due or die time for Montreal, the Habs came out on fire and opened the scoring just five minutes into the opening frame. As the team entered the locker room after the first period, it seemed like they got focused and understood that if they played their game, they could clinch the series. Well, they did just that.

For the next 40 minutes, the Lightning controlled the pace of play. Goals from Dan Boyle, Brad Richards, and an empty netter added by Freddy Modin would give the Lightning the 3-1 series clinching win. Nikolai Khabibulin was fantastic in goal once again, stopping 27/28 shots and all 17 shots he saw in the final two frames.

I don’t know if I have seen any Lightning team in their history dominate a playoff series like they did against Montreal during the 2004 Eastern Conference Semifinals. All three groups played well as the top scorers did their job, the defense played tight all series, and Nikolai Khabibulin was spectacular all series long. The series sweep allowed the team to rest up before their match up against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals, and as we come to find out, that time off may have been the deciding factor in the series.

Next: The Tampa Bay Lightning Pull Out Their Brooms