MONTREAL (CP) - Strong performances from Montreal rookies Andrei Kostitsyn and Guillaume Latendresse have made things difficult for Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau - but you won't hear him complaining.
Kostitsyn had a goal and an assist and Alexander Perezhogin scored the overtime winner Tuesday as the Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 for their second straight pre-season win.
Perezhogin tipped in a point shot by Mike Komisarek at 2:13 of overtime on a delayed penalty call for his first goal of the pre-season, capping a solid effort for the Canadiens.
Carbonneau said at the beginning of training camp that he wanted to play his final two pre-season games with the club he would take into the regular season. But Kostitsyn and Latendresse have been stronger than expected, so Carbonneau wants to keep them aboard - at least for now.
"We may have a couple of extra players," Carbonneau said. "We have two games left and we'll have to make some tough decisions (Wednesday) and send some guys to Hamilton, but we'll definitely have our team set by Sunday."
Montreal has two pre-season games left, both against the Senators - Thursday night in Ottawa and a re-match Saturday at home.
Saku Koivu and Mathieu Dandenault also scored for the Canadiens (2-4-0), while Eric Perrin, Filip Kuba and Ryan Craig each scored power-play goals for the Lightning (2-0-1).
Johan Holmqvist had a strong game in goal for the Lightning with 37 saves, while Cristobal Huet was equally sharp for the Canadiens with 27 stops.
Latendresse clouded the roster picture even further when he was handed a major boarding penalty at 2:06 of the first period for a hit on Lightning forward Rob DiMaio.
"Latendresse didn't really help or hurt his chances because he didn't play," Carbonneau said. "I would have liked to see him play for 60 minutes, that's for sure."
DiMaio had just finished dumping the puck in the Canadiens end when the 19-year-old Latendresse flew at him and drove his head into the glass near the penalty box. DiMaio lay on the Bell Centre ice for several minutes before leaving the game with a concussion.
"I was asked to go out and hit people, I saw a chance to do it and I took it," Latendresse said. "I hit to hurt people, but not to injure them."
Carbonneau said he quickly looked at the replay of the hit and felt it wasn't from behind, nor did it warrant a game misconduct. But Lightning captain Tim Taylor saw things differently.
"It was from behind, obviously, and (DiMaio) isn't doing well right now," Taylor said. "It's a very dangerous play and those are the types of plays the league needs to look at. I'm sure they'll have a look at that one."
If Latendresse is cut he would have to be sent back to his junior team in Drummondville, Que., and he would then be ineligible to play for Montreal the rest of the season. He appears to be in a battle for a spot with Kostitsyn, who could be sent down to the American Hockey League without having to clear waivers.
The big hit by Latendresse sparked a fight between Habs defenseman Mike Komisarek and Dan Janik of the Lightning, and set the tone for a penalty-filled contest.
Tampa Bay had 10 power-play opportunities in the game, while Montreal scored on one of three power-play chances.
The Lightning opened the scoring on the power play, after Perrin jumped on a rebound of a Martin St. Louis shot for his second goal of the pre-season at 8:03 of the first.
Montreal answered back at 12:31 of the period when Dandenault's point shot beat a screened Holmqvist for his first of the pre-season.
Tampa Bay scored another power-play goal at 8:42 of the second when Kuba jumped on a loose puck and fired it into an open side for his second of the pre-season.
The Canadiens tied it 2-2 at 16:40 of the second on the power play when Perezhogin made a nice pass from behind the net to Kostitsyn in front, who scored on his third try for his second of the pre-season.
The Lightning re-gained their lead with Koivu in the box for an offensive zone hooking penalty when Craig was credited with a goal that went in off Habs defenseman Dan Jancevski's skate at 8:21 of the third. Koivu atoned at 9:56 when he scored his second of the pre-season to tie it 3-3.
Notes: The Canadiens didn't dress forwards Christopher Higgins, Aaron Downey, Michael Ryder and defencemen Sheldon Souray and Andrei Markov. The Lightning were without goaltender Marc Denis, forwards Vincent Lecavalier, Ruslan Fedotenko and Vaclav Prospal and defencemen Luke Richardson and Cory Sarich. ... A sellout crowd of 21,273 was announced. ... Carbonneau said after the game the Canadiens had not yet decided if they will keep 22 or 23 players this season. The Habs will keep one extra defenseman, but salary cap restrictions will dictate whether they keep one or two extra forwards.