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TBL@MTL: Electrifying win jolts Habs' playoff hopes

The Canadiens took it to the No. 1 team in the League on Tuesday, beating the Lightning and allowing their playoff hopes to live another day

by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL /

MONTREAL - Things started looking daunting for the Habs against the Lightning on Tuesday night, but if you hadn't already noticed, this is a never-say-die kind of team.

The Canadiens went down early - just 2:28 into play, to be exact, on a Steven Stamkos goal - and one had to wonder if they had it in them to mount a comeback against this near-historic best team in the NHL.

Enter Nate Thompson, who beat Tampa Bay netminder Eddie Pasquale off a centering pass later in the period to equal things up for the home side.

Video: TBL@MTL: Thompson buries shot from slot

Tying the game, at the Bell Centre, against just the third team in League history to win 60 games in a season, while your team tries to keep its fight for a playoff spot alive for another day: not a bad way to score your first goal as a Hab.

"It did feel good. It was a key moment of the game. They got a good bounce there on the first one. And I thought after that we still kept playing the whole game," recounted Thompson, who has also recorded six assists since joining Montreal in February. "We didn't really change our game the whole 60 minutes and we really took it to them."

Video: Nate Thompson on scoring his first as a Hab

A similar result would play out in the second period, with Cedric Paquette lifting the Lightning to a 2-1 lead over Montreal before Joel Armia would tie it on an exceptional second - and third - effort to set the stage for an exciting third-period showdown.

Video: TBL@MTL: Armia banks in shot off Pasquale

And then, as the midway mark of the final frame was approaching, Artturi Lehkonen batted in the rebound from a Victor Mete shot to give the Canadiens their first lead of the night. They would never look back.

Video: TBL@MTL: Lehkonen bats in puck from doorstep

So what was it like to contribute at such a crucial moment in the game, Artturi?

"Oh, it felt very good. That was a pretty good bounce for me. I haven't had a lot of good bounces this year," shared Lehkonen, who scored his 11th goal of the season and was named the game's first star. "Every man creates his own luck, but that one felt good for sure."

Video: Artturi Lehkonen on his game-winning goal

Max Domi would add an insurance marker - with help from Lehkonen, might we add - to close the books on an impressive and essential win, one which will prevent the Lightning from setting a new League record for wins in a season as they can now only max out at 62, the current high mark.

Video: TBL@MTL: Domi buries wrist shot on breakaway

For the coach, the 4-2 win over Tampa is a sign of a true team effort and a full 60-minute performance.

"I thought we played another big game tonight. We played a good game in Winnipeg, but it was maybe even better tonight because [the Lightning are] a team that don't need a lot of chances to score. They have a lot of talent on all their lines," noted Claude Julien. "They're a very dangerous team. I would say it was a good game in all respects. We moved the puck well, we were fast, we used our forecheck and we were disciplined. If we can play two more games like that, we have a good chance of prolonging our season."

If you ask Paul Byron, the Habs' refusal to quit in the face of adversity is simply second nature.

"That's just the way the guys in this room are built. We're programmed that way. We know we're not the most talented team in the League, but we know if we bring an honest effort every night. we can really catch teams," offered Byron, who returned from injury after a two-game absence. "We have a lot of team speed, a great system, and great coaching. When we're on our game, we're a hard team to play against and we showed that tonight."

Video: Paul Byron on his first game back from injury

Prolonging the Canadiens' season would mean more of the playoff-like atmosphere of which they got a taste on Tuesday. And Domi loved what he's seen of it thus far.

"It's pretty loud," he said of the Bell Centre crowd on this night. "We definitely heard it."

The Habs travel to Washington on Wednesday ahead of their showdown with the Capitals on Thursday night.

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