Welcome to Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Hurricane Elsa blew through Tampa Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. Moderate winds and soaking rains were the main characteristics of the storm, which was downgraded to a tropical storm as it approached land.
But by mid afternoon the sun was out and things were back to normal.
With the skies clear, fans gathered early in Thunder Alley, the party zone outside the arena, starting a celebration they hope will rage well into the night after a win that would deliver a second Stanley Cup championship to the Lightning in the past 10 months. Tampa Bay won the 2020 Stanley Cup on Sept. 28 playing in the Edmonton bubble.
The Canadiens will be looking to put the party on hold as they did Monday when they avoided the sweep with a 3-2 overtime victory at home in Game 4.
It appears the lineups for each team will be the same from Game 4. Lightning forward Alex Killorn is expected to miss his fourth straight game after sustaining an unspecified injury in Game 1.
For Montreal, forwards Jake Evans and defensemen Alexander Romanov and Brett Kulak are expected to play again after being inserted into the lineup for Game 4.
There will be a full-capacity crowd at Amalie Arena for the second straight game, with thousands more fans outside.
NHL.com Senior Director of Editorial Shawn P. Roarke is there to provide all the sights, sounds and action from Game 5.
For the second straight game, the Stanley Cup is in the building. If the Lightning win Game 5, they will become the first back-to-back champion since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016-17.
If Montreal can find a way to win, Game 6 will be Friday in Montreal.
The odds are long for Montreal for a variety of reasons. At the top of the list is the fact that the Lightning have not lost consecutive games in either of the past two postseasons, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is 6-0 after a loss this postseason with three shutouts.
Tampa Bay has won eight of 12 home games this postseason and can tie the Lightning record for home wins in a single postseason, set in 2004. Plus, the Lightning are averaging 4.09 goals per game at home this postseason. Since Tampa Bay joined the NHL for the 1992-93 season, only one team has a higher per-game scoring average, the Colorado Avalanche, who averaged 4.36 goals per game in 1996. Finally, the Lightning are 14-6 (.700) all-time with the opportunity to clinch a series on home ice.
Montreal is looking to become the fourth team to win Games 4 and 5 after losing the first three. The 2012 New Jersey Devils, 1945 Detroit Red Wings and 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs are the others. The Devils lost in six games and the Red Wings in seven. The Maple Leafs won in seven games to become the only team in the history of the NHL, NBA and MLB to win a championship series after losing the first three games.
Here is a primer from the NHL.com staff to get you ready for Game 5:
— The first goal could be the most important, senior writer Dan Rosen writes as part of his 3 Keys for Game 5.
— Having to win four straight games to take the Stanley Cup is the latest challenge for a Canadiens team that knows far too much about adversity, writes staff writer Mike Zeisberger.
— The Lightning are on home ice with a chance to defend the title they won last season. To do so, the Tampa Bay players will have to call upon the lessons they learned last season in the bubble, says staff writer Tom Gulitti.
— Who would be the MVP of the Lightning if they win the Cup? Coach Jon Cooper believes there are several candidates, writes Gulitti.