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Burns: 3 Things from beating Montreal to stay alive

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps the Bolts 4-2 win in Montreal

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Recap: Lightning 4, Habs 2

Bolts still alive after 4-2 win over Habs

Caley Chelios recaps the Lightning's 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens

  • 01:41 •

The Tampa Bay Lightning live to fight another day.

The Lightning remained in the hunt for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference after defeating Montreal 4-2 on Friday at the Bell Centre.

The Bolts went into the final three games of the regular season needing to win all three and get a little help to qualify for the playoffs for a fourth-consecutive year.

The Lightning have won two of those first three games with just one more remaining: Sunday at home versus Buffalo.

They'll become Pittsburgh and New Jersey fans on Saturday as the Penguins travel to Toronto and the Devils host the Islanders.

Tampa Bay played another supremely solid road hockey game in Montreal for the second-straight night, jumping out to an early lead and keeping the Canadiens at a safe distance throughout.

The Bolts late-season run may still not be enough to secure a postseason bid. But the way youngsters have filled into the lineup due to injuries and produced while superstars have continued to do most of the heavy lifting sure has been fun to watch over the last two-plus months of the season.

What did we like about Friday's win over the Canadiens?

We'll go through the highlights in 3 Things we learned from taking care of business in Montreal.

Video: TBL@MTL: Vasilevskiy uses acrobatics to deny Danault

1. WINNING THE GOALTENDING DUEL

For the first half of the opening period, the Lightning appeared to be facing a brick wall in the form of Montreal's Carey Price. The Bolts had a number of quality scoring chances early only to watch Price effortless turn them aside.

Fortunately for the Lightning, they had their own wall in Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Playing for the second-consecutive night, Vasilevskiy outplayed his counterpart in the Montreal net and made 27 stops on 29 shots to backstop the Lightning to a victory in a must-win game. For the second-consecutive game, Vasilevskiy's calming influence in goal gave the Bolts' confidence to play their game.

The result was a thorough 4-2 victory over the Atlantic Division champion Canadiens.

Two saves on Friday underscore just how valuable Vasilevskiy was for the Lightning during this contest. In the opening period with the game still scoreless, Vasilevskiy got turned around in goal following a scramble at the net. Phillip Danault ended up with the puck behind the goal and tried to wraparound a shot with Vasilevskiy out of position. Only Vasilevskiy had the presence of mind to take his left skate and anchor it at the post, thwarting Danault at the last second even with his back still turned to the action.

Later in the third period with the Lightning clinging to a 4-2 lead and Montreal on the power play, a ping-ponging puck ended up on the stick of Alexander Radulov in the right circle. Radulov had a wide-open net to shoot at and was about to make it 4-3.

Except Vasilevskiy dove across the mouth of goal and was able to get a hand on Radulov's shot, keeping it out an inch or two from the goal line.

Both stops are candidates for top save of the year for the Lightning this season.

Vasilevskiy happened to produce both in a game the Bolts absolutely had to have.

Video: TBL@MTL: Kucherov nets his 40th goal of the season

2. THE RIGHT ANSWER

Every time Montreal showed signs of threatening on Friday, the Lightning had the correct response.

After opening up a 2-0 lead behind first period goals from Yanni Gourde and Nikita Kucherov, Montreal answered in the second period, Dwight King getting completely lost behind the Bolts' defense on a line change to score on a wide-open breakaway and make the score 2-1.

But just 4:20 later, the Lightning went back up by two, Alex Killorn knocking a puck away at his own blue line and outracing a pair of Montreal defenseman for the loose puck to create a scoring chance, which he buried for his 19th goal of the season.

The same scenario played out in the third period. Artturi Lehkonen took advantage of some poor passing by the Lightning in their own end on a power play to throw a puck at net from a sharp angle that caught Vasilevskiy off guard and chopped the Bolts' advantage to 3-2.

Again, the Lightning had an answer.

This time, it came almost immediately.

Just 21 seconds after Lekhonen gave the Canadiens life, Yanni Gourde snuffed it out, netting his second goal of the game for his first career multi-goal game to push the lead back to two goals.

"These are must wins for our team," Lightning rookie Brayden Point said when asked how his team was able to compete so hard playing for the second time in two nights. "We've got lots of energy. Obviously, it was a tight-checking game, but I think we worked really hard tonight."

The Lightning played with a two-goal lead for most of the second and third periods. Their ability to answer anytime Montreal tried to get back in the game allowed them to close out the pesky Canadiens on Friday.

Video: TBL@MTL: Killorn beats Price with top-shelf tally

3. SCOREBOARD WATCHING

The Lightning pulled to within a point of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference by virtue of Friday's victory over Montreal, although the Leafs own a game in hand with regular season contests remaining Saturday versus Pittsburgh and Sunday against Columbus.

The Bolts move two points ahead of the New York Islanders in the East standings, although the Islanders also have two games remaining: Saturday at New Jersey and Sunday versus Ottawa.

The Lightning can only sit and watch on Saturday, hoping both the Leafs and Isles falter. If Toronto beats Pittsburgh, the Bolts are eliminated from playoff contention.

The Lightning will no doubt be glued to their televisions Saturday night after returning home from Montreal.

"I think we'll all be watching them pretty close," Point said of Saturday's docket of games in the NHL. "But we've got to rest up and take care of business ourselves."

No matter what happens with Saturday's results, the Bolts can be proud of their effort over the final stretch of the regular season. Relegated to last place in the Atlantic Division as late as February 4, the Lightning have gone 19-6-4 since, tied for the second-best record in the NHL over that stretch, to get back into contention.

The Bolts are hoping for a little more help so they can complete the task on Sunday at home against the Buffalo Sabres in the regular season finale. 

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