Don’t be fooled by the final score. This one turned into a laugher for the Lightning, but for most of the game, it was anything but a laugher. The Canadiens are one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference and at different points in this game, they effectively utilized their team speed and quick transition game.
But at every crucial juncture, the Lightning had an answer. They grabbed an early lead on goals from Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos. After Brendan Gallagher sliced the lead to 2-1 at 12:16 of the first, Montreal applied consistent pressure for the next several minutes. But the Bolts withstood that opposition surge and pushed back in the closing stages of the opening frame. That helped slow the Montreal attack and allowed the Bolts to take the 2-1 lead into the intermission.
Most of the first half of the second period was a tight-checking affair. Neither side seemed to have much time or space in the offensive zone. But after Stamkos netted his second – a beauty of a play that began with an incredible long pass up the middle from Hedman – the Lightning had their two-goal lead back and things started opening up for Tampa Bay. Stamkos completed his hat trick with a late second period power play goal and the lead was 4-1.
But the Lightning weren’t out of the woods. Montreal had rallied from deficits to win each of its first three games, including a 3-0 third period comeback on Saturday in Philadelphia. Before the second period ended, Ben Bishop denied Montreal’s Max Pacioretty on a breakaway. Then, early in the third, he robbed Tomas Plekanec on what looked to be a sure goal.
After that save, which turned out to be the only Montreal shot in the period, the Bolts dominated – they tacked on three more goals against former Lightning netminder Dustin Tokarski, who relieved Carey Price in the third.
There were a number of good signs for the Lightning. The penalty kill again did not allow a goal. The power play potted two – and now has accounted for six goals in three games. After scoring just one even strength goal in their first two games, the Bolts netted five in this one. And compared to some of the breakdowns that hurt them in the game on Saturday against Ottawa, the Lightning played a much crisper overall defensive game.
Now it’s a short turnaround for the Lightning, who host the rested New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. They’ll look to replicate their overall effort from this game – if they do, they’ll have an excellent chance to finish off the homestand with another win.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Stamkos’ breakaway goal in the second period, which gave the Lightning a 3-1 lead.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Victor Hedman – Lightning. Career-best four points. Goal and three assists.
2.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. Hat trick.
3.Ryan Callahan – Lightning. Goal and assist.