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Red Wings re-sign Marc Staal; Canucks to buy out Virtanen

Red Wings re-sign Marc Staal; Canucks to buy out Virtanen

Defenseman Marc Staal is staying put in Detroit, while the Vancouver Canucks have placed Jake Virtanen on waivers for the purpose of buying out the final year of the under-performing forward’s contractBy JOHN WAWROW AP Hockey WriterJuly 25, 2021, 6:05 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleDefenseman Marc Staal is staying put in Detroit, while the Vancouver Canucks placed forward Jake Virtanen on waivers on Sunday for the purpose of buying out the final year of his contract.The Red Wings announced reaching an agreement with Staal. A person with direct knowledge of the contract told The Associated Press it’s a one-year deal worth $2 million. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team did not release the contract’s value.The 34-year-old Staal returns to Detroit for a second year after spending his first 13 NHL seasons with the New York Rangers. He had three goals and 10 points in 56 games last season, and is highly valued for his experience and leadership overseeing a young, rebuilding team.The Canucks are parting ways with the under-performing Virtanen after six seasons. He was placed on leave on May 1 after being accused in a lawsuit of sexually assaulting a women four years earlier.The Canucks are on the hook for paying a third of Virtanen’s remaining $3 million base salary, while freeing up $2.5 million in cap space.Virtanen had five goals in 38 games last season, a year after scoring a career-high 18 goals in 69 games. Overall, Vancouver’s 2014 first-round draft pick has 55 goals and 100 points in 317 games.———More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

M Go Big: Led by Power, Michigan goes 1-2 in NHL draft

M Go Big: Led by Power, Michigan goes 1-2 in NHL draft

The NHL draft turned into a Michigan maize and blue affair Friday night. And there’s a Hughes sibling reunion set to happen in New Jersey.Whatever challenges the coronavirus pandemic presented scouts in grading prospects, many of whom played shortened seasons, was unable to put a dent on the Wolverines’ hold on the top rankings. Four players with ties to Michigan were taken among the top five selections.The run began with defenseman Owen Power going No. 1 to the Buffalo Sabres followed by center Matthew Beniers being selected second by the expansion Seattle Kraken.It marked the first time since 1969 that teammates went with the first two selections.Things developed so quickly, Beniers was in the middle of an interview when he watched a third Michigan player, forward Kent Johnson, get selected fifth by Columbus.“I’m kind of lost for words right now,” Beniers said. “I’m just so excited for my teammates and for what’s next.”The trio made Michigan college hockey’s first program to have three teammates selected in the first round.That wasn’t all, however. Luke Hughes, who is committed to playing at Michigan this season, was chosen fourth overall by the the Devils, where the defenseman is united with brother Jack, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft.Hughes watched the draft on his family’s living room couch with both of his NHL-playing brothers, rounded out by Quinn, who was selected seventh overall by Vancouver in 2018. Jack Hughes immediately jumped up and began hugging Luke upon hearing Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald announce the pick.“I think Jack’s even more excited — that might be the happiest I’ve ever seen him,” said Luke Hughes, who spent last season playing for USA Hockey’s developmental program. “It’s a dream come true to play in the NHL and it’s also a dream come true to play with your brother. Both those things are happening tonight.The draft had it’s controversial moment as well. The Montreal Canadiens used their 31st selection to select Logan Mailloux, who was criminally convicted in Sweden last year for sharing an explicit photo of a woman performing a sex act without her consent. Mailloux had asked teams not to select him even though a player cannot remove himself from the draft.“I know he’s been remorseful about the incident, which we truly don’t agree with it in all sense of the world,” general manager Marc Bergevin said. “But he’s a young man who made a serious mistake of judgment and we really have to work with him.”Ontario junior center Mason McTavish was the only player without Michigan ties to round out the top five, after he was selected third overall by Anahiem.NHL scouting officials entered the draft expressing concern over projecting prospects because of a lack of playing time due to COVID-19 and after the combine was canceled for a second consecutive year.Michigan played 26 games before its season abruptly ended with a series of positive tests just before the start of the NCAA Tournament. The Ontario Hockey League, by comparison, had its entire season canceled.The difference in playing time was reflected in the leagues represented by the top picks. Michigan, USA Hockey and the USHL combined for seven of the first 15 players selected, while there were five players selected from the Canadian junior ranks, and three from Sweden.Sabres GM Kevyn Adams said the yearlong focus on Michigan’s prospects was justified.“When you have that much talent on one team, there’s going to be a lot of eyes on them. And certainly the draft eligible players that was the case,” Adams said, in noting how the teammates fed off each other. “When you’re in practice every single day going with and against elite players, that helps your development. I absolutely tip my cap to Michigan and the way they’ve been able to bring in the players that they have.”The draft was held remotely for a second consecutive year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with commissioner Gary Bettman hosting the draft in New Jersey, where he introduced teams to make their selections from their home arenas.The Sabres had among the busier days.Adams acquired a second first-round pick which he used to select Swedish forward Isak Rosen at No. 13, by trading defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers. After the draft, Adams confirmed he’s had discussions to trade forward Sam Reinhart to the Florida Panthers, while stressing the deal hasn’t yet been completed.In the meantime, Adams is also shopping captain Jack Eichel in a bid to transform a team that finished last in the overall standings for the fourth time in eight years and is in the midst of an NHL record-matching 10-year playoff drought.Power is listed at 6-foot-6 and 213 pounds and was the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau’s top-ranked North American prospect. After scoring three goals and adding 13 assists in 26 games during his freshman season at Michigan, the 18-year-old Power cemented his draft stock by helping Canada win the world hockey championships.From Mississauga, Ontario, Power is leaning toward returning to school for his sophomore season, something Adams has said would not play a factor into his selection.Power was the third player drafted first directly out of college, joining Michigan State forward Joe Murphy in 1986 and Boston University goalie Rick DiPietro in 2000. And he became the 16th defenseman to go No. 1 since 1970, and first since the Sabres chose Rasmus Dahlin at No. 1 in 2018.Beniers was ranked sixth overall among North American prospects. He had 14 goals and 24 points in 24 games for the Wolverines.In 1969, Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif were Montreal Junior Canadiens teammates, who were selected with the first two picks by Montreal. In 1963, Garry Monahan and St. Michael’s Juveniles teammate Peter Mahovlich were selected first and second.The first European players selected were from Sweden in back to back selections. Defenseman Simon Edvinsson went sixth to the Detroit Red Wings, followed by under-sized forward William Eklund, who was chosen seventh by the San Jose Sharks.The Arizona Coyotes had their first-round pick, 11th overall, stripped by the NHL for testing players in violation of league’s combine policy. Arizona however traded back into the first round by acquiring the ninth pick and select Canadian junior forward Dylan Guenther following a five-player trade that sent Arizona captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson to Vancouver earlier in the day.The Detroit Red Wings moved up eight draft spots in a trade with Dallas to make WHL Edmonton’s Sebastian Cossa the first goalie selected.At pick No. 20, Minnesota moved up two spots in a trade with Edmonton to make Jesper Wallstedt the first Swedish goalie to be selected in the first round.———More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Sabres to open NHL draft featuring Michigan, mystery, Kraken

Sabres to open NHL draft featuring Michigan, mystery, Kraken

The focus of attention falls squarely on the Buffalo Sabres to kick off an NHL draft heavily themed by Michigan, mystery and the expansion Seattle Kraken.General manager Kevyn Adams isn’t tipping his hand on whether Buffalo will use the No. 1 pick to select defenseman Owen Power, the consensus top prospect and one of three Wolverines players projected to be chosen in the first round Friday.There’s even more uncertainty surrounding the Sabres, who have the potential of shaking up the draft order by adding an extra pick. Adams hasn’t ruled out doing so while juggling trade talks involving three key players, including captain Jack Eichel, who has questioned his future in Buffalo over a dispute with the team regarding how to repair his herniated disk.“Lots of conversations. Lots of different scenarios,” Adams said Thursday of his bid to overhaul a franchise that finished last in the overall standings for the fourth time in eight years. “We’re willing to listen to every possible thing that’s going to get our franchise pointed in the right direction.”The Sabres are picking first for the fourth time in franchise history, and second since selecting defenseman Rasmus Dahlin in 2018. They’re followed by the Kraken and the Anaheim Ducks in a two-day, seven-round draft being held remotely for a second consecutive year due to the pandemic.Having added 30 players in the expansion draft Wednesday, the Kraken can now start stocking up on prospects.“It’s obviously a different feel and a different entity, but equally as exciting coming out of the entry draft with players, some that may be able to help us sooner than later, no doubt, but definitely are the future of our team,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said.In a season in which the Stanley Cup was awarded for the first time in July, COVID-19 has added an element of uncertainty in ranking prospects, many of whom had limited playing time because of constricted or canceled seasons in North America, or scrambled to join teams in Europe.Add in the NHL’s annual pre-draft combine being canceled, and scouting staffs were forced to rely on limited game tape or lean more heavily on Zoom calls with prospects for their projections.“There’s some mystery to this draft,” Colorado Avalanche scouting director Wade Klippenstein said. “It’s not ideal. It would be nice to have more viewing, live viewings especially, on players. But I think there’s incredible opportunity here this year.”Michigan benefited from playing a 26-game season before the second-seeded Wolverines were forced to pull out of the NCAA Tournament following positive tests.Listed at 6-foot-6 and 213 pounds, Power is the NHL Scouting Bureau’s top-ranked prospect, a fluid skater and playmaker who made the most of the larger European ice surface by helping Canada win a gold medal at the men’s world championships in Latvia.He is joined by Wolverines forwards Ken Johnson, ranked third among North American skaters, and sixth-ranked Matthew Beniers. They have the opportunity to make Michigan the first college hockey program to have three players selected in the first round.An 18-year-old winger, William Eklund, is the top-ranked international skater after earning Swedish Hockey League rookie of the year honors.Mason McTavish, the second-ranked North American, joined numerous Canadians by playing in Europe. Forward Brennan Othmann, the eighth-ranked North American, did the same, using his father’s ties to play in Switzerland after the Ontario Hockey League season was canceled.“I had a lots of buddies I played with and played against, and they can’t showcase themselves,” Othmann said. “That’s just disappointing for them and for me to hear that. We’ve worked our whole lives to get drafted in the National Hockey League.”Central Scouting director Dan Marr acknowledged it’s more difficult to project this year’s class, while noting every NHL team faces the same challenge. The fallout might see more mid-to-late round selections blossom into NHL players.“There’s going to be a lot of players in the top 60 that are going on to go and play,” Marr said. “But what we don’t know is that other group of players that we didn’t get to see much. … The argument can be made there’s going to be a lot of mid-round picks that could play ahead of players taken before them.”Another twist to this year’s draft class is the number of top prospects considering taking another year to develop before turning pro. Eklund said he intends on playing one more season in Sweden, while Power said he’s leaning toward returning for his sophomore college season.That’s fine with Adams, who said it won’t factor into the Sabres’ decision.“This is a tough league. So I think the one mistake we don’t want to make is putting someone in position that they’re just treading water,” Adams said. “We want them to be ready to play.”Notes: Though there are now 32 teams drafting, the first round will feature only 31 selections with the NHL stripping the Arizona Coyotes of their selection (11th overall) for violating the league’s combine testing policy.———AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno and AP Sports Writer Tim Booth contributed to this report.———More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

NHL draft going to the Wolverines? 3 among top prospects

NHL draft going to the Wolverines? 3 among top prospects

So much attention on Michigan’s hockey program, and too few seats for scouts at Yost Ice Arena due to COVID-19 restrictions, created early season challenges for Wolverines coach Mel Pearson.“NHL people were trying to find their way into a our building in a lot of different ways, whether as an usher or working in the press box or whatever,” Pearson said with a chuckle, recalling some of the more creative credential requests he received from scouts after being initially limited to 16 seats for 32 NHL teams.Eventually, everyone who needed a spot got one.The sudden surge in interest was readily apparent, and not simply because the Big Ten — unlike Canada’s three top junior leagues — was one of North America’s few developmental leagues able to pull off a full season last year.Ann Arbor, Michigan, became a must-stop on the scouting trail because of a Wolverines lineup featuring a trio of highly touted freshmen in defenseman Owen Power, and forwards Kent Johnson and Mathew Beniers.At 6-foot-6 and 213 pounds, the smooth-skating, play-making Power is the NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s top-ranked North American player, with Johnson listed third and Beniers sixth entering the draft on Friday night.Michigan could become the first college hockey program to have three players selected in the first round. Michigan State in 1990, Boston College in 2000 and Ohio State in 2001 each had two players selected in the first round.“It’s an extraordinary year to say the least. And I’m coming up on my 40th year in college hockey at the Division 1 level,” Pearson said. “I’ve been around some high-end players, but never the quality and the quantity that we’re seeing here at Michigan. Just extremely proud and extremely happy for the young men and their families.”Add in defenseman Luke Hughes (ranked fourth), who is committed to playing at Michigan this season, and the draft will have a distinct Go Blue theme to it while being held remotely for a second consecutive year due to the pandemic.Canadian junior center Mason McTavish is the second-ranked North American skater, while Swedish left wing William Eklund is the top-ranked European.The Buffalo Sabres hold the first pick, followed by the expansion Seattle Kraken and Anaheim Ducks.Power finished with three goals and 16 points in 26 games to earn conference all-rookie team honors. From Mississauga, Ontario, he then represented Canada at World Championship, where he finished with three assists and won gold. His performance, especially being able to showcase his skating ability on the larger European ice surface in Latvia, cemented his top ranking.“If he had not gone with the men’s team, he still would be No. 1 on our list and, I think, on a lot of lists,” Central Scouting Bureau director Dan Marr said. “But I think the fact of what he did on the men’s national team and won a gold medal, anyone who was presenting an argument for someone else to go No. 1, they just didn’t bother arguing the point anymore.”Power could be the third NCAA player selected first in the NHL draft, joining Michigan State’s Joe Murphy, who went No. 1 to Detroit in 1986, and Boston University goalie Rick DiPietro (New York Islanders, 2000).Johnson, from North Vancouver, British Columbia, finished second among college freshmen with 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) while making the switch from center to wing. Beniers, from Hingham, Massachusetts, finished with 14 goals and 14 assists, and helped the U.S. win gold at the World Junior championships.There’s a good chance the trio will be back together at Michigan for their sophomore season, with Power already saying he’s leaning toward returning to school. One of Power’s reasons to come back is the opportunity to enjoy a year on campus without coronavirus restrictions in which games were played without fans present.There’s also unfinished business. The Wolverines were seeded second entering the NCAA Tournament before being removed from participation because of positive COVID-19 test results.“They’re a very tight group and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them all come back,” Pearson said. “They’ve talked about it: `Hey, let’s make a run for this and then let’s go try our hand at professional hockey.’”STAYING HOMEEklund has also indicated he’d prefer spending one more season developing in Europe before turning pro. The 18-year-old earned Swedish Hockey League rookie of the year honors in finishing tied for second on Djurgarden with 11 goals, while adding 12 assists for 23 points in 40 games.IN THE FAMILYHughes is following in the NHL footsteps of his older brothers Quinn, who was drafted No. 7 by Vancouver in 2018, and Jack, who went No. 1 to New Jersey two years ago.Only two other families have had at least three brothers selected in the first round. Duane, Brent, Rich and Ron Sutter did so from 1979-82. And then there was Eric, Marc and Jordan Staal from 2003-06.———More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

`Crazy' Canadiens familiar with staring down adversity

`Crazy' Canadiens familiar with staring down adversity

The Montreal Canadiens are so familiar with staring down adversity, interim coach Dominique Ducharme refers to his team as “a crazy bunch of guys.”By JOHN WAWROW AP Hockey WriterJuly 6, 2021, 7:49 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMONTREAL — During a season that has been anything but normal for Dominique Ducharme, the Montreal Canadiens interim coach finds it somehow apt his team is flying into a potential hurricane for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.“It’s no surprise anymore,” Ducharme said Tuesday before the Canadiens boarded a flight for Tampa, Florida, which just happens to be near the projected path of Elsa, the tropical storm and potential hurricane churning along in the Gulf of Mexico.“It’s been crazy,” he added. “But we’re a crazy bunch of guys in here, and we’re going to take that challenge.”Game 5 is Wednesday night, which was supposed to be after the worst of the storm hits Tampa. Asked about the potential of postponing the game, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press by the league “will make a call when we have to” on rescheduling the game.Canada’s Olympic men’s ski team, which included the likes of “Jungle” Jim Hunter, Steve Podborski and Ken Read, in the 1970s and early ’80s was once billed as the “Crazy Canucks” because of the risks they’d take in order to win on the slopes.Now come the crazy Canadiens, who face a steep battle to keep the Tampa Bay Lightning from winning the Stanley Cup. Montreal is attempting to achieve the NHL improbable in becoming just the fifth team — and second in the final — to overcome a 3-0 series playoff deficit.“It’s probably part of our destiny,” Ducharme said, looking ahead to Game 5.The Canadiens are still playing after Ducharme’s lineup changes paid off with Josh Anderson — playing alongside new linemates Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield — scoring twice, including the overtime goal in a 3-2 win to avoid being swept.As for destiny, what adversities haven’t the Canadiens overcome with Montreal enjoying the organization’s deepest playoff run since winning its 24th Cup title in 1993?They closed the season with injuries to key players, including goalie Carey Price and alternate captain Brendan Gallagher, who missed the final six weeks with a broken left thumb. Defenseman Jeff Petry missed two playoff games after catching his fingers in a photographer’s hole in the glass.Then there was COVID-19. Aside from having a team-wide outbreak in April, Montreal was down to its third coach in assistant Luke Richardson after Ducharme tested positive and was forced to miss two weeks of the playoffs before returning for Game 3 of the final. Ducharme, of course, took over after Claude Julien was abruptly fired in February.Don’t forget the on-ice challenges the Canadiens have stared down, such as rallying from a 3-1 first-round series deficit against Toronto.The Quebec government hasn’t given the home team a break, with health officials limiting the home crowd to 3,500 at the Bell Centre, which has a capacity of 21,300.“This whole season has been kind of chaotic, kind of hectic,” veteran forward Corey Perry said. “We’ve kind of gone through everything,”Rather than worry, Perry said the focus should remain on enjoying the moment.“Dom is right: We’re a crazy bunch of people. This is fun to do here in Montreal,” he added. “Be prepared to work, but at the end of the day, it’s just hockey and have fun.”Crazy as it might sound, as Anderson put it on Sunday: “We’ve got nothing to lose.”———More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Canadiens beat Lightning 3-2 in OT, avoid Stanley Cup sweep

Canadiens beat Lightning 3-2 in OT, avoid Stanley Cup sweep

MONTREAL — Josh Anderson delivered in overtime, and Montreal killed Tampa Bay’s chance for a Stanley Cup sweep.Anderson said the Canadiens weren’t done, and he was right — at least for one night.The speedy winger scored his second goal 3:57 into overtime, and the Canadiens avoided elimination by defeating the defending champion Lightning 3-2 in Game 4 on Monday.“We didn’t want to end it tonight in front of our fans. We expected to go to Tampa tomorrow,” Anderson said. “I think everybody in that locker room did, you know, packed our bags this afternoon.”The series shifts to Tampa Bay for Game 5 on Wednesday night.Carey Price stopped 32 shots for Montreal, and rookie defenseman Alexander Romanov also scored. The Canadiens also went 5 for 5 on the penalty kill, including a four-minute high-sticking penalty issued to captain Shea Weber with 1:01 remaining in regulation.“Webby is our leader,” forward Brendan Gallagher said. “I think we would have killed it for anyone, but he’s been a rock for us since he’s come to our team.”Pat Maroon and Barclay Goodrow scored for Tampa Bay, and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 18 shots.The Lightning are attempting to become the NHL’s second team to win consecutive championships in the salary-cap era, which began in 2005. The Pittsburgh Penguins accomplished the feat with titles in 2016 and 2017.Tampa Bay, which won the Cup last year by defeating Dallas in six games, is one resilient bunch, too. It is 13-0 over the past two playoffs when coming off a loss.“Sometimes you play pretty good and it’s a break here, a break there that just doesn’t go your way. You just go to keep working through it,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “No hanging our heads but I liked a lot of things we did tonight.”Montreal became the first team to score in OT to avoid a sweep in the Stanley Cup Final since the Bruins did it in 1946 against the Canadiens, according to STATS.The Canadiens also avoided becoming the first team to get swept in the final round since Detroit won four straight over Washington to win the championship in 1998.They drew some inspiration from Anderson, who provided his teammates with a rallying cry a day earlier when he said: “We’re not finished yet.”“We understood the hole that we were in, but we just kind of talked about it: Find a way to win one game here,” Gallagher said. “(Anderson) stepped up and scored a couple of big goals for us. It’s going to be the same thing next game.”Interim coach Dominique Ducharme’s lineup changes paid off, with Romanov stepping up in just his third career playoff game. Anderson was shifted to a new line, playing alongside Nick Suzuki and rookie Cole Caufield in Ducharme’s bid to add more speed.Anderson got his second career playoff overtime goal after he forced a turnover at the blue line and outraced Jan Rutta and Yanni Gourde to a loose puck along the left boards. He then directed the puck toward the net, where Caufield got a piece of it but pushed it wide.Anderson jumped back in front and knocked the puck past Vasilevskiy inside the left post. His follow-through put him on the ice, where he celebrated the goal while on his back.Montreal was outscored 14-5 in the first three games, including a sloppy 6-3 loss in Game 3 on Friday.They got off to a better start Monday, thanks to Price stopping 12 shots in the opening period and Anderson converting Suzuki’s centering pass at 15:39 for Montreal’s first lead of the series.Though Tampa Bay rallied twice to tie, the Canadiens never relinquished the lead.The Lightning are 0-4 in OT this postseason, and 0-5 when giving up the first goal.“We have confidence in the power play. We had some good looks throughout the game, but at the end of the day you want to bear down and score one there, but it didn’t happen,” said Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, who had a shot from the slot get a piece of Price’s blocker and go off the left post during a power-play chance late in the second period. “That was a close game overall.”Montreal is accustomed to overcoming adversity. The Canadiens entered the playoffs with the worst record among the 16 qualifiers before rallying from a 3-1 series deficit against Toronto. Montreal then swept Winnipeg in the second round and eliminated Vegas in six games in the semifinals to advance to its first final appearance in 28 years.The Canadiens improved to 8-1 when facing elimination on home ice in the final.The Lightning still get a chance to clinch the title on home ice and celebrate with their fans and — more importantly — family. It was something Tampa Bay was unable to do in the restricted-access bubble in Edmonton, Alberta, in September, when it defeated Dallas in six games or the title.On Saturday, Canadian health officials denied the NHL an exemption to allow Lightning players’ immediate family members to travel to Montreal.Tampa Mayor Jane Castor may have got her wish in suggesting, a day earlier, that perhaps the Lightning “take it a little bit easy” in order to win back home.Montreal still faces a daunting climb.In NHL playoff history, only four teams have rallied to win a series after losing the the first three games, with Toronto the only one to do so in the final in beating Detroit to win the Cup in 1942. The Los Angeles Kings were the last team to overcome a 3-0 series deficit by beating San Jose in a 2014 first-round series.———More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Lightning lead Cup Final 3-0, on cusp of repeating as champs

Lightning lead Cup Final 3-0, on cusp of repeating as champs

MONTREAL — An extra day of rest between Stanley Cup Final games might ease forward Josh Anderson and the Montreal Canadiens’ lingering disappointment of falling behind 3-0 to the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning.It won’t, however, change the daunting challenge they face in being pushed to the brink of elimination with Game 4 at Montreal on Monday.It’s win or stay home for the rest of the summer.“We’ve got nothing to lose at this point,” Anderson said Sunday. “Everyone’s going to be ready for tomorrow night. We’re not finished yet.”Mathematically, no.But that might be all the Canadiens have going for them in a series in which they’ve yet to hold a lead, been outscored a combined 14-5, and coming off a rough 6-3 loss Friday in the first Cup Final game played in Montreal in 28 years.The Lightning are spurred by the objective of seeking to join the 2016 and ’17 Pittsburgh Penguins as just the second to win consecutive titles since the NHL’s salary-cap era began in 2005. Tampa Bay is also in position to complete the 21st 4-0 sweep in final history — the first since Detroit against Washington in 1998.The Lightning, who beat Dallas in six games to win the franchise’s second title last year, are a playoff experienced team in making their third final appearance since losing in six games to Chicago in 2015.And Tampa Bay hasn’t forgotten the sting of how 2019 ended, when the Presidents’ Trophy winners were embarrassed when they were swept by Columbus in the first round. Anderson played for the Blue Jackets that year and knows the Lightning well, saying, “They’ve grown as a team” since then.“When you’ve gone through some tough times, to be honest, you try to build on them,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. ”It feels good to go through that, and when you start tasting success, you don’t want to go backward. You just want more. It’s like an addiction. These guys are feeling it right now, and hopefully we can keep it together and finish this one off.”The Canadiens have the uphill climb of attempting to become just the fifth team — and second in the Cup Final — to rally from a 3-0 series deficit. And only five other times has a team lost the first three games of a series before rallying to simply force a Game 7.The degree of difficulty is that much steeper against Tampa Bay, which has cashed in on various Montreal miscues.“Errors in execution. It’s not much more complicated than that,” interim coach Dominique Ducharme said. “It seems like every time we make a mistake, we pay cash.”He didn’t specify Canadian or U.S. dollars.What the Canadiens did so successfully in capitalizing on other opponents’ mistakes in their deepest playoff run in 28 years is now being consistently done to them.That was the case Friday, when Tampa Bay scored twice in the opening four minutes of each of the first two periods to build a 4-1 lead. The backbreaker came early in the second, when Montreal’s Artturi Lehkonen turned over the puck at the Lightning blue line during a Canadiens line change, and the Lightning struck the other way with Nikita Kucherov capping a 2-on-the-goalie break.Then there was Game 2, in which Montreal outshot Tampa Bay 43-23 and still lost 3-1.“They’ve seen part of (our) best in Game 2,” Ducharme said. “We’re just going to push that to another level. So the adjustment is not major. We know what we need to do, and we know it’s about executing.”A few timely saves from Carey Price would help.After allowing 13 goals in a six-game semifinal series win over Vegas, Price has allowed 13 already to Tampa Bay. The Lightning aren’t making it easy on Price by getting traffic in front.Ducharme on Saturday was even asked what previously would have been an improbable question of whether Price would be his starter in Game 4. Ducharme said yes, before defending his goalie.“You can talk about one guy or other guys. It’s about all of us,” he said. “We need to be better in front of him. Everyone.”Scoring first might be a good start.The Canadiens are 11-2 when scoring the opening goal this postseason and have enjoyed a seven-game run of not trailing. The streak began after Montreal fell behind 3-1 in its first-round series to Toronto, and carried through a four-game second-round sweep of Winnipeg.“It would be something important, but at the same time, you cannot stop playing if you don’t score the first goal,” Ducharme said. “We need to manage the start the right way, come out dynamic, active, playing our game.”Lightning captain Steven Stamkos knows what’s at stake for both teams.“We expect that this group is going to be ready to play, and we expect their group is going to be ready to play,” Stamkos said. “This group is very mature in terms of realizing the task at hand.”The Lightning are 3-2 this postseason and 7-4 the past two playoffs in potential series-clinching games. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy has posted a shutout in each of Tampa Bay’s past four series-clinching wins.Montreal defenseman Jeff Petry had a defiant response when asked about not wanting to see the Lightning parading the Cup around in Montreal — something the Canadiens have witnessed just once, against Calgary in 1989, during their previous 34 final appearances.“We don’t want to see the Lightning win the Stanley Cup at all,” Petry said. “Our goal is to win tomorrow’s game and deal with flying out and preparing for a game in Tampa when that comes.”———More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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