As they have done throughout the year, the Lightning rebounded well after a subpar performance. Compared to Saturday’s loss to Winnipeg, they played a much better overall game in beating the Canadiens for the fourth time this season. It was a close, hard-fought contest with playoff-type intensity.
Of the four contests between the teams this year, this was Montreal’s best game. Once they scored their first goal, which came at the 11:10 mark of the second period, they were able to dictate play for a portion of the final 29 minutes. (For most, if not all, of the other three games, they were completely outplayed by the Lightning.) Unfortunately for the Habs, the Lightning had already built a 3-0 lead by the time Tomas Plekanec got Montreal on the board. That lead proved to be just enough of a cushion for the Lightning - the Habs eventually cut it to one goal, but never tied the score.
Early on, the Canadiens had the opportunity to grab the lead when they received a four-minute power play. But the Lightning killed off the double minor, thanks in part to a couple of important saves from Ben Bishop. A few minutes later, the Lightning converted on their first power play chance. A Valtteri Filppula pass, intended for Jonathan Drouin at the side of the net, deflected off Andrei Markov and changed directions. It slid between the pads of Carey Price. That goal sparked the Bolts, who carried play for most of the rest of the period. They added to their lead during a four-on-four, when Max Pacioretty accidentally passed the puck back to his own zone to Steven Stamkos. Stamkos rifled a slapshot past Price to make it 2-0.
The Lightning made it 3-0 early in the second after Victor Hedman accepted a pass from Alex Killorn, split the Montreal defense and roofed a shot past the stick of Price. The Lightning had several other scoring chances after the Hedman goal, but Price kept the deficit at three.
Plekanec’s power play goal at 11:10 of the second made it 3-1 and gave the visitors energy. Shortly thereafter, they killed off another Lightning power play and then went on the attack. Much of the final four minutes of the period were spent in the Tampa Bay d-zone. The Habs pressured, but the period ended with the Lightning still leading by two goals.
On the opening shift of the third period, Plekanec stole a pass from Bishop behind the Lightning net and set up P.A. Parenteau for an open-net tally. Suddenly, the score was 3-2. But the Bolts did a reasonably good job managing the rest of the period, even when the Habs brought pressure. There were a few exceptions. P.K. Subban hit the post on a slap shot from the point. Pacioretty got loose on a breakaway and was denied by Bishop. And finally, during a closing seconds of a Montreal power play, the Habs nearly jammed home a puck in the crease following a Bishop save on Alex Galchenyuk. But as a whole, the Lightning didn’t sit back after the Parenteau tally. They also generated some Grade-A third period chances and enjoyed some good offensive zone shifts. With 2:22 left, J.T. Brown drew a holding penalty. The Habs pulled Price for an extra attacker but Stamkos iced the win with an empty-netter.
It was an evenly-played game. Both teams had 34 shots on goal. The Habs attempted 57 total shots, the Lightning 56. Both goalies made key saves. Each club scored a goal in which the puck deflected in off an opposition player and each team netted a goal off an unusual turnover. But the Lightning made enough extra plays to earn the victory. They remain the only NHL club this season not to lose three games in a row.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Bishop’s third period save on Max Pacioretty’s breakaway.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. Two goals and assist.
2.Victor Hedman – Lightning. GWG and assist.
3.Tomas Plekanec – Canadiens. Goal and assist.