This was going to be a challenging game for the Lightning. They were playing the second half of a back-to-back against an opponent fighting for a playoff spot. Montreal's desperation level far exceeded the Lightning's and it showed in how the game unfolded.
The Habs were hungry on pucks all night and their forecheck created problems for the Lightning in the Tampa Bay defensive zone. The Canadiens had a shooting mentality, firing 45 shots on net and recording 92 shot attempts. Eddie Pasquale, making his second NHL start, delivered an outstanding performance. Thanks to Pasquale, the Lightning entered the third period tied at two. But the Habs converted on two of their third period chances in the opening 10:08 of the final frame and took the lead for good.
With their win, the Canadiens have moved into a tie with Columbus for the second wildcard, but the Blue Jackets hold the tiebreaker. Carolina, with a one-point lead over the Blue Jackets and Canadiens, occupies the first wildcard. As well, the Hurricanes are just two points behind Pittsburgh, which has yet to clinch a postseason berth. So there will be plenty of intrigue and drama with the Eastern Conference race in the final few days of the regular season. The Lightning may not know their first round opponent until the conclusion of games on Saturday.
The other Atlantic Division matchup is set, however. Boston will play Toronto and the Bruins have clinched home ice. Of course, the Leafs and Bruins are the Lightning's next two opponents. With all three teams locked into their playoff position, it'll be interesting to gauge the intensity level of these next two games.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1. Artturi Lehkonen - Canadiens. GWG and assist.
2. Tomas Tatar - Canadiens. Assist.
3. Eddie Pasquale - Lightning. 41 saves.