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 Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.
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’s 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.
Game 2 is Wednesday night 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 New York 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 for Tampa Bay. The defenseman playing in his 46th playoff game beat Price from the slot off a pass from Ondrej Palat at 6:19 of the opening 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.
Blackhawks hire outside firm to investigate allegations
The Chicago Blackhawks have hired a former federal prosecutor to conduct an independent review of allegations that a former player was sexually assaulted by a then-assistant coach in 2010.
CEO Danny Wirtz announced the move in an internal memo Monday morning. It also was confirmed by a person familiar with the decision who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
“An experienced team of professionals, led by former federal prosecutor Reid Schar of the law firm of Jenner & Block LLP, has been retained and is currently conducting an independent review of these allegations,” Wirtz said in the memo obtained by the AP. “Mr. Schar and his firm have significant experience conducting independent investigative reviews, have no previous ties to the Blackhawks organization, and have been directed to follow the facts wherever they lead.”
The Athletic first reported on the memo from Wirtz.
The investigation into one of the NHL’s most high-profile franchises comes after the filing of two lawsuits against the team. The first alleges sexual assault by former assistant coach Bradley Aldrich during the team’s run to the 2010 Stanley Cup title, and the second was filed by a former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan.
“We take the allegations described in these lawsuits very seriously,” Wirtz said in his memo. “They in no way reflect this organization’s culture or values.”
A former player said Aldrich assaulted him, and that the team did nothing after he informed an employee. The lawsuit, filed on May 7 in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges Aldrich also assaulted another unidentified Blackhawks player. The former player who sued and is seeking more than $150,000 in damages is referred in the document as “John Doe.”
Gary Bettman casts doubt on NHL players going to Beijing Olympcs
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said time is running out to reach a deal to send players to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, casting doubt on the league’s return to that event after skipping it in 2018.
The league, players’ union, International Olympic Committee, and International Ice Hockey Federation continue to negotiate with the Olympics seven months away. Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said Monday night that the pandemic and disruption to next season are among the concerns, along with the lack of an agreement.
“We have real concerns about whether it’s sensible,” Bettman said, noting the league will go if a deal can be reached. “We’re getting to be on a rather short timeframe.”
Bettman added time is running short on making a commitment, with the NHL hoping to release its schedule for next season before the July 23 draft.
“We’re already past the time that we hoped this would be resolved,” he said during his annual pre-Stanley Cup Final availability with the media. “We’ll deal with it, just as we’ve managed to be agile and flexible over the last 15 months. But we’re getting to be on a rather short time frame now, because this can’t go on indefinitely.”
Daly called discussions with Olympic officials as a work in progress. Among the outstanding issues for the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association are health insurance and travel costs as well as access to marketing rights.
The NHL has also expressed concern over the benefit of shutting down its regular season for two weeks when the Olympics are held in Asia. Games are played in the early morning hours in North America due to the time difference.
International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel told The Associated Press he hoped a resolution can be reached with the NHL and its players to compete in Beijing.
Kraken reach agreement to use Charlotte as AHL affiliate
The Seattle Kraken will use the Charlotte Checkers as their American Hockey League affiliate for the first season of the newest NHL franchise.
The Kraken reached an agreement with the Florida Panthers to share Charlotte as their affiliate for the 2021-22 season. Seattle has been awarded an AHL franchise in Palm Springs, California, but delays in arena construction have pushed the debut of that team until the fall of 2022.
“The AHL plays such a key role in the development of NHL players,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said. “This is a very important decision for the long-term success of our organization.”
Seattle is expected to supply the Checkers with eight to 12 players, some likely coming from the pool of 30 players the Kraken will select during the expansion draft in July. Others are likely to be free agent signings made by Seattle that are signed to either AHL deals or two-way deals.
At this time, the sharing agreement is expected to just be for one season with construction underway on the arena for Seattle’s AHL affiliate in the Coachella Valley.
“This agreement helps ensure we can loan all of our prospects to one place rather than multiple locations,” Francis said. “We would like to thank both Charlotte and the Florida Panthers for their cooperation to make this happen.”