MONTREAL -- Public health has officially denied the Montreal Canadiens' request to have 10,500 people in its stands at the Bell Centre when the Habs take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals on Friday.

"This decision was made in order to limit the risk of spreading the disease," said Quebec's health ministry.

According to an unnamed source familiar with the negotiations between the Tricolore, the government and public health officials, Quebec did want to promote vaccination among young people by allowing more spectators at the Bell Centre.

"It's a missed opportunity because the government would have liked to send a strong message in favour of vaccination," explained the source.

They add Montreal public health is the one that refused "the different scenarios to increase the capacity of the Bell Centre."

At the time, France Margaret Bélanger, the Canadiens' executive vice-president and chief commercial officer, said the team believed 10,500 people -- half the capacity of the arena -- could be safely accommodated.

"We tried..," tweeted Habs president and CEO Geoff Molson Wednesday night.

Following the failed negotiations, capacity at the Bell Centre will remain at 3,500 due to COVID-19 health restrictions.

Doctor Richard Massé, a strategic medical advisor to the department of health, says officials want to be cautious when it comes to making exceptions to public health orders because other groups might demand similar treatment.

"That's why when we propose measures, we want to make sure they apply elsewhere," he explained.

Massé notes public health is open to the idea of having outdoor screenings for the rest of the Stanley Cup finals, following a suggestion put forth by Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

-- with files from The Canadian Press.