Quest for the Stanley Cup continues with Ducharme return

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Jon Cooper listened while the reporter asked his question during a Stanley Cup Final press conference.

“Strong teams, sometimes, are their biggest adversary, when they feel things are going to come easy. What’s your way to make sure that they don’t believe it’s going to be easy?”

The Tampa Bay Lightning coach didn’t skip a beat.

“Watch ‘Quest for the Stanley Cup’ to find that one out,” said Cooper, who gave a subtle eyebrow raise while leaving the podium.

The sixth episode of the sixth season of “Quest for the Stanley Cup,” a seven-part, all-access series, begins prior to Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Lightning and Montreal Canadiens. The episode premieres Friday at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN+ in the United States and YouTube.com/NHL in Canada.

Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme, who was in a 14-day quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 on June 18, returns for Game 3. At the skate prior to the game, he’s welcomed back by Canadiens players, including forward Tomas Tatar.

“I won’t be doing laps this morning,” Ducharme told Tatar with a laugh. He soon turns serious after Tatar asks him how the virus affected him. “A couple of days were just tough,” he said.

Ducharme’s pregame talk is short and direct: “Let’s be on top of those guys. Let’s be fast, let’s be hard, let’s manage the puck, let’s be disciplined. We’re going to do it together.”

The Lightning, however, defeat the Canadiens 6-3 to get to the verge of sweeping the best-of-7 series. Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman makes history when at 3:27 into the first period he became the only NHL player to score a goal in every calendar month.

“Just one more step,” Cooper said. “Hardest one to win, fourth one.”

Video: Quest For The Stanley Cup: Cooper speech after Gm3

Between Games 3 and 4 in Montreal, Lightning forwards Blake Coleman and Ross Colton play a spirited game of table tennis.

“Little bit of a reminder of what we went through in the bubble, being confined in the hotel,” Coleman said, referring to last postseason in the hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton. “This is only three or four days versus 65, so it’s an easy press through for us.

“We know Montreal’s a good team, we know they’re not going to just roll over for us, and I’ve really taken the time to appreciate our situation here, really take it all in the rest of the way, and I’m excited for us to finish the job.”

Coleman defeats Colton when Colton’s return goes into the net.

Meanwhile, Canadiens forward Eric Staal has a video call with his sons Parker, Levi and Finley. Staal was traded to the Canadiens by the Buffalo Sabres on March 26, and his wife Tanya and their sons remained in the United States.

“This last half of the year, it’s not a month, this is a half a year of me being gone and her having three boys, 11, 8 and 6, and she’s done everything,” Staal said. “So grateful to have her there as my rock. They’re watching every game, paying close attention. Hopefully these memories they’ll have for a long time.”

Staal also talks with his brothers, Marc Staal, a defenseman for the Detroit Red Wings, and Jordan Staal, a forward for the Carolina Hurricanes. Before going to the arena, Eric grabs a few red and blue M&M’s, gifts from his sons.

“They say, ‘Go Daddy Go’ and ‘Go Habs Go,’ ‘No. 21,'” Staal said. “It’s been our thing since I’ve been gone. It keeps them connected to what we’re doing.”

The Canadiens find life in Game 4, when forward Josh Anderson scores in overtime to give them a 3-2 win. The episode ends with Montreal ready to return to Tampa Bay for Game 5.

“Today my kids had me eat 10 M&M’s,” Staal said. “We went through a number of different varieties as far as what was written on them, but 10 was the number, so we got it done.”

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