(SportsNetwork.com) - The Montreal Canadiens will try to complete their first postseason sweep in over two decades when they take a 3-0 series lead into Tuesday's Game 4 against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning.
Montreal, the only Canadian team to qualify for the playoffs this spring, hasn't recorded a sweep since beating Buffalo in four games during the 1993 Adams Division finals. The Habs won their last Stanley Cup title that season, which also marked the last time a club from Canada won an NHL championship.
After taking Games 1 and 2 of this series in Tampa, the Habs returned home to post a 3-2 win over the Lightning on Sunday and take a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven set.
Montreal didn't waste much time in getting on the board in Game 3, as Rene Bourque scored the fastest game-opening goal for the Canadiens in almost 37 years.
Bourque's third goal of the playoffs came just 11 seconds into the game and it proved to be the team's quickest marker from the start of a playoff game since Bob Gainey tallied seven seconds into the series-clinching Game 6 of the Stanley Cup semifinals against the Islanders in a 2-1 win on May 5, 1977.
Tampa evened the score at 1-1 midway through the second period, but Brendan Gallagher restored Montreal's lead 1:50 before the second intermission and Tomas Plekanec made it 3-1 less than six minutes into the third.
Carey Price came up with 27 saves for the Canadiens, while Gallagher also added an assist. P.K. Subban contributed a pair of helpers for Montreal, which can earn a trip to the conference semifinals with a win tonight. The Canadiens haven't played in the second round since reaching the Eastern finals in 2010.
Ondrej Palat and Matt Carle provided goals with Steven Stamkos assisting on both for the Lightning.
Stamkos left the game late in the second period after Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin accidentally hit him in the head with his knee, but Tampa Bay's captain returned for the third period. Stamkos expects to play in Game 4.
Anders Lindback made 28 saves for the Lightning, who have never been swept in the postseason.
Sunday's game did not come without a bit of controversy as Tampa Bay had a potential go-ahead goal in the second period wiped out by the officials. With the game tied at 1-1 late in the second, Tampa's Ryan Callahan was able to put the puck past Price, but officials ruled that Lightning forward Alex Killorn made contact with the Montreal goaltender and then refused to move out of his way seconds before the puck crossed the line.
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper did not mince words when discussing the ruling.
"I was pissed off then and I'm pissed now, but that's just my opinion," Cooper said after the game. "I saw it differently but he's the one making the call. We played hard and played with passion. I thought we responded real well after that and I thought they deserved a better fate tonight. This is when it hurts the most."
The Canadiens would grab the lead for good a few minutes later when Gallagher converted a cross-ice pass from Subban to put Montreal ahead 2-1.
Although Stamkos expects to play tonight after being shaken up in Game 3, the Lightning will once again be without No. 1 goaltender Ben Bishop, who has yet to play in this series due to an upper-body injured suffered late in the regular season. Lindback expects to get the start in Game 4 with Kristers Gudlevskis serving as the backup.
Lindback has posted an .888 save percentage in this series, stopping just 87- of-98 shots.
Tampa Bay now needs to enter NHL lore to advance to the next round. Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1975 New York Islanders and 2010 Philadelphia Flyers have won a best-of-seven series after dropping the first three games.
Callahan thinks the team can take some positives from Sunday's loss into the do-or-die Game 4.
"The chances we created and the spots of the game we were really good and getting opportunities. We take that and move that into Game 4," said Callahan. It's one game again."
If the Lightning can stay alive with a win in Game 4, the next contest will take place Thursday evening in Tampa.