There’s a storm front coming — and it’s not just the surging Canadiens.
While the Lightning and Canadiens are battling each other on the ice, the two teams will also be battling the elements. Tropical Storm Elsa is bearing down on Tampa Bay.
“Yeah, it’s no surprise anymore,” said Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme on Tuesday morning before the team left Montreal to get to Florida in advance of the storm. “I think anything that happens right now and for a while, we just take it and look at it, and say it’s probably part of our destiny. It’s been crazy. But we’re a crazy bunch of guys in here, and we’re going to take that challenge.”
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The Canadiens extended the Stanley Cup Final when they won a dramatic Game 4 in overtime on a Josh Anderson rebound tally. Tampa Bay leads the best-of-seven series 3-1.
“We missed an opportunity last night,” Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “Our group knows that. And you turn the page pretty quick here this morning and you realize what a great opportunity you have here as a team, as a group and as an organization up 3-1 in the series and you’ve got to win one more and you’re going into obviously a place you’re familiar with, with a fan base that’s going to be behind us and we’ve got to go out there and give it our best effort and try to win one hockey game.”
Game 5 is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Amalie Arena; Elsa is set to make landfall in the morning. Winds ranging between 39 and 73 mph, rain and storm surges are expected for the “Sunshine City” beginning as early as Tuesday afternoon. There is concern that the tropical storm could strengthen while spinning over the Gulf of Mexico and become a Category 1 hurricane before hitting the city. A hurricane watch has been ordered as the storm is reporting winds around 70 mph as of 1:45 p.m. ET, according to the National Hurricane Center (75 mph would make it a Category 1.)
The arena is not far from Garrison Channel. Deputy commissioner Billy Daly told The Associated Press’ Stephen Whyno the NHL “will continue to monitor and make a call when we have to. We do have an amount of flexibility.”
“This whole season has been kind of chaotic, kind of hectic,” noted Canadiens forward Corey Perry “We’ve kind of gone through everything between COVID, the way we played some nights to everything. And now, yeah you’re right, we are potentially going into a hurricane. Hopefully, we get there, we get their safe and, and we get to play that game tomorrow night and then come back here.”
Aside from the teams traveling Tuesday, the Stanley Cup also headed back across the border. If Tampa Bay can win in front of their fans on Wednesday — more than 16,000 are expected, as of now, to pack the building — it’ll signify the end of the 2021 NHL season. If not, teams will be hopping flights back to Montreal.