Tampa Bay pulled into a tie with Montreal (43-20-9) for the lead in the Atlantic Division. Each team trails the New York Rangers by two points for first place in the Eastern Conference with the Rangers having played three fewer games than the Lightning and two fewer than the Canadiens.
"We had our legs tonight," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Right out of the game I thought we started strong. To kill off that double-minor early and that save [Ben] Bishop made on [Alex] Galchenyuk…we kind of took it from there."
Stamkos' first goal gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead at 15:58 in the first period when he capitalized on a poor play from Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty.
Pacioretty sent a pass back into the Canadiens zone where he thought defenseman Tom Gilbert was trailing the play. However, Gilbert had moved up ice and Pacioretty's pass went directly to Stamkos, who sent a slap shot from the right circle past Canadiens goalie Carey Price high on the stick side.
"I was excited to see the puck come at me and I was just hoping the refs wouldn't blow the whistle," Stamkos said. "Good thing they were paying attention and it was nice to see that one go in."
Stamkos scored his second goal into an empty net at 18:55 of the third period. It was his 39th goal of the season.
"This was definitely a good response after a game where we didn't play well against Winnipeg," Stamkos said. "We had a couple lapses and they pushed hard but [Bishop] made some big saves and we didn't break. We stuck together and this was a big win for us."
"Early in the game we got a big power play goal and we played well in the second period as well before they pushed back," Hedman said. "We expected that and we stayed together and held on for the win."
Montreal cut the deficit to 3-1 at 11:10 of the second period on a power-play goal from Tomas Plekanec, who appeared to be attempting a centering pass but the puck bounced off of the pad of Lightning goalie Ben Bishop and into the net.
"We played a solid game, we were engaged and hard a good start," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "But we made a huge mistake on the second goal and they had a lucky bounce on their power play goal but those things happen. We had tons of quality scoring chances but to win hockey games you need some breaks, tonight we didn’t have any breaks."
The Canadiens made it a 3-2 game 34 seconds into the third period when PA Parenteau scored off a rebound of a shot by Plekanec. Bishop tried to clear the puck around the boards but Plekanec got control of the puck and put on a shot on goal that Parenteau was able to clean up.
"It's a game of hockey, 82 games, some games you get bounces, some games it goes against you," Galchenyuk said. "You've just got to play the system right and go out there and compete. We didn’t play a full 60 minutes tonight and that cost us."
Bishop finished with 34 saves and came up with big stops during Montreal's final power play at 7:02 in the third period.
"I didn't do us any favors by turning the puck over and giving them all the momentum but after that we buckled down and made a huge kill late in the third and got that empty netter," Bishop said. "It was one of those situations where you bend but you don't break. It was nice to get a 3-0 lead and guys stepped up in the third period, blocking shots and doing the little things to win."