TAMPA BAY – Bad bounces and odd goals aside, the Habs leave Tampa Bay with exactly what they came for – two points.
Up three goals to none and with just under six minutes left in the match, it looked as though the Canadiens were poised to cruise to an uncontested victory against a team that had held them pointless in Tampa in 2011-12. Unfortunately, as is often the case, things don’t always go according to plan and after a few tough breaks the Habs ultimately forced to settle for a shootout win instead of an easy victory.
“Obviously that wasn’t the way we wanted to win the game. Seeing those goals go in, especially that third one was tough, but we stayed strong,” admitted Josh Gorges, referring to the game’s tying marker that saw Sami Salo play pinball wizard with 44 seconds left in the game, ricocheting the puck off two Canadiens’ skates and into the back of their net. “It goes off me in front, then it’s going wide but then it goes off Raph [Raphael Diaz] on the side and in… there was nothing Pricey could do on any three of those goals.”
While it’s almost impossible for the Habs to assume much responsibility on the Lightnings’ second and third goals of the night, it was the first, scored by Victor Hedman on a swift feed from Tom Pyatt, that stuck out the most in Gorges’ mind.
“I think the biggest let down was their first goal because that gave them life. Then they believed that they had a chance,” explained Gorges, who along with Andrei Markov finished the night with five blocked shots each. “I thought we played a hard game. That’s a good team on home ice and they got some good bounces which was unfortunate, but we got the two points and that’s what we came here for.”
The three goal lead the Canadiens spent the majority of the game building came largely thanks to the team’s fourth line, who all stepped up their games to help kill penalties and provide an offensive punch for the Habs over two periods.
“We need contribution from everyone if we’re going to win. We spoke about that before the game. They all showed up and played well and it’s what allowed us walk away with the win,” imparted Therrien, following a victory that saw Lars Eller pitch in with two helpers, Colby Armstrong pick up first assist as a Hab and Travis Moen net his first goal of the season. “They did great work tonight and I’m very happy with the effort they put in. They killed off several penalties over the course of that game. That’s how we decided to use their line tonight and they delivered. Not only that, but they generated offense as well. It was a big plus for us.”
Earlier in the day when Therrien spoke of the importance of focus and being able to bounce back from bad situations, it’s clear that his goaltender was taking his point to heart. After watching a three goal lead slip away to goals he had no real chance at stopping, Carey Price came up big in the shootout, turning aside all three shots he faced and earning a win in a situation that often proved elusive in his last campaign.
“Obviously we need to be winning some shootouts. Davy [David Desharnais] made a good move there and scored and I just tried to be patient on Stammer [Steven Stamkos] and wait him out,” said Price, who shut the door on snipers Hedman, Martin St.Louis and Stamkos. “At the end of the day, we gave up the lead but the game wasn’t lost yet and we managed to stay focused and won.
“Sometimes the bounces just don’t go your way,” he added. “But our team played hard for the majority of that game and I thought we deserved the win.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com
Game highlights: Habs vs. Lightning
Boxscore: Habs vs. Lightning
The Numbers Game - February 12, 2013