As compared to last night’s clunker in Ottawa, the Lightning played much better in this game. Their compete level was higher, they generated numerous scoring chances, they outshot Montreal, 39-27 and had an advantage in shot attempts, 79-50. But they couldn’t capitalize on enough of their looks. Montreal, on the other hand, was able to cash in after some isolated but crucial Lightning mistakes. As a result, the Lightning had to chase deficits for most of the night and ended up losing their second game in a row.
The sequence that led to the first goal started when Nikita Nesterov’s shot from the high slot was blocked. Because he couldn’t get his shot past the first shot blocker, the puck ricocheted out of the zone and the Habs countered on a two-on-one. Brendan Gallagher snapped a shot from the right circle over Ben Bishop’s right shoulder.
The Bolts outshot the Canadiens, 12-9, in the first period, but weren’t able to rack up many scoring chances. That changed in the second, a period that began with a Valtteri Filppula goal in the opening minute. The Lightning had some other good looks after Filppula’s tally, but couldn’t take the lead. Instead, Montreal grabbed a 2-1 advantage after two more critical Lightning errors. First, at the end of a long shift in the defensive zone, Nikita Kucherov couldn’t get a stick on Bishop’s long outlet. As a result, the puck was iced and the Lightning couldn’t get their tired players off the ice. On the ensuing shift, Tyler Johnson got the puck with a chance to clear, but didn’t. The Habs stole the puck, got it to the front of the net and Tomas Plekanec slid in the rebound.
After the Plekanec goal, netminder Ben Scrivens made several key saves to keep the Montreal lead at 2-1. Then, in the final few seconds of the period, Alex Killorn fell while defending P.K. Subban. Subban had a lane to the net and his backhand shot deflected into the net off Devante Smith-Pelley. That was a dagger goal for the Lightning to allow.
The Habs added a fourth goal early in the third before Victor Hedman answered with a backhand tally at 9:03. The Lightning would get no closer, despite firing 16 third period shots on Scrivens and accumulating several terrific chances.
The Lightning’s willingness to compete and skate helped him carry a territorial edge. They’ll need to bring those components into Friday’s home game against Nashville. As for the mistakes, well, hockey is a game of mistakes. Both the Lightning and Canadiens made some in this game. But the Habs were more effective in making the Lightning pay for their mistakes. And that was the difference in the game.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Smith-Pelley’s goal with eight seconds left in the second period.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Tomas Plekanec – Canadiens. Two goals and assist.
2.Victor Hedman – Lightning. Goal and assist.
3.Brendan Gallagher – Canadiens. Goal and assist.