NHL Playoffs Daily 2021: Montreal Canadiens look to strike back in Game 2

The Montreal Canadiens discovered they're not in the North Division playoffs anymore, getting handled by the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 on the road. But a Game 2 win, and a split in Vegas, could change the trajectory of that series.

Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Lightning evened up their series with the New York Islanders, though the game was not without controversy.

Check out the ESPN NHL Playoffs Daily to catch up every day of the postseason until the Stanley Cup is handed out in July.

More: Playoff schedule | Playoff Central

Wednesday's game

Game 2: Montreal Canadiens at Vegas Golden Knights | 9 p.m. ET (Knights lead 1-0)

The Golden Knights did a lot of things right in Game 1, but one thing in particular was a key to their win: scoring the first goal, courtesy of Shea Theodore in the first period. The Canadiens had scored the first goal of the game in nine of their previous 11 games, and won eight of those games -- five of them on the road.

"When you play with the lead, it makes the game a lot easier. We had some good opportunities throughout the first period. Obviously, it was our best period, but [Marc-Andre] Fleury made some big saves for them," Canadiens forward Tyler Toffoli said. "Playing with the lead is huge, especially on the road. I think that's going to be one of the keys."

About last night

Tampa Bay Lightning 4, New York Islanders 2 (series tied 1-1)

The physicality and controversy were ratcheted up for Game 2 between the Islanders and Lightning, with Tampa Bay breaking through offensively for the 4-2 win. Nikita Kucherov set up goals by Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and Victor Hedman in the win. Jan Rutta added a critical goal for Tampa. Brock Nelson and Mathew Barzal scored for the Islanders, who couldn't solve Andrei Vasilevskiy (24 saves) otherwise.

That said, the Islanders got what they came for in the first two games. "A split on the road is how we started each series so far. We're looking forward to getting back to 'the Coli,' where we know our fans will be loud for us," said Scott Mayfield. Full recap

Three stars of the night

1. Nikita Kucherov, F, Tampa Bay Lightning

The Bolts' star made gorgeous passes to set up goals by Point and Palat, the latter critically breaking a 1-1 tie in the second period. He later had the primary assist on Victor Hedman's power-play goal to make it 4-1.

2. Jan Rutta, D, Tampa Bay Lightning

The biggest goal of Game 2 was scored by Rutta, as the defenseman lasered a shot into the top far corner at 2:16 of the third period for the 3-1 lead. Rutta didn't score a goal in 35 regular-season games this season, and didn't have a goal in 21 previous playoff games.

3. Ilya Sorokin, G, New York Islanders

We'll toss a star to the Islanders' backup goalie for coming in cold in the first period and stopping all six shots he faced after replacing Semyon Varlamov, following the latter's collision with Brayden Point. "He's fantastic. He's a total pro. He works at his game daily, even if he's not getting the call to start," said Islanders coach Barry Trotz.

Officiating botch of the day: Part 1

The NHL's concussion spotters pulled goalie Semyon Varlamov 13 minutes and five seconds into Game 2 after Lightning center Brayden Point collided with him. Inexplicably, the on-ice officials gave Point a goalie interference penalty despite Point taking an obvious cross-check to the back from Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech that sent him into Varlamov. The Islanders tied the score on their ensuing power play.

"You have to manage your emotions. We all saw the call. It was a tough decision for the officials to make. Especially when they say he put his hands up to hit the goalie, when he clearly didn't do that," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

Officiating botch of the day: Part 2

The image here doesn't do it justice: The Lightning actually had seven men on the ice when they scored their second goal of the night. "The second goal hurt quite a bit. Obviously you guys know there was too many men on the ice there. They had seven guys," said Trotz after the game, far less animated than he was on the bench after it happened.

Streak of the day

The Lightning have not suffered consecutive playoff losses since their first-round sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2019. Tampa Bay is 12-0 in the game immediately following a loss since that series, the longest such run in NHL history.