The Lightning got the win tonight, but it was a bumpy ride. They endured a rough opening 10 minutes - during that time, they fell behind, 2-0, and were outshot, 17-0. As they have done in earlier games this year, they allowed a goal on the shift after they scored. And they survived a late push by the Canadiens, who scored a sixth-attacker power play goal to pull within a goal in the closing minutes.
Still, the Lightning were able to overcome all of it with strong overall play (after those first 10 minutes), and a monster game from the line of Alex Killorn, Steven Stamkos, and Anthony Cirelli. In addition to Victor Hedman's career-high four assists.
Even though both teams hadn't played since December 23rd, the Lightning looked much rustier than the Habs during the opening minutes. In every area of the game - passing, defending, compete-level, just to name three - the Canadiens were simply better. The Lightning starting finding their rhythm in the second half of the first period, though, and finished the frame by recording 10 of the final 13 shots. One of those went in the Montreal net - Alex Killorn's tally in the last minute of the first pulled the Lightning to within a goal and set the stage for their second period offensive onslaught.
That period featured three goals for the Lightning, who enjoyed the majority of the puck possession in the frame. The first two of those were milestone tallies. Stamkos' tying goal was his 800th career point. Mitchell Stephens' go-ahead score gave the rookie his first NHL goal and point. When Killorn added his second of the game, the Lightning had a 4-2 lead.
But the Canadiens, despite not owning as much possession time as the Lightning in the period, did generate some dangerous looks when they did have the puck in the offensive zone. Thirteen seconds after Killorn's goal, they answered with a Ben Chiarot rebound tally.
The Lightning maintained the one-goal lead into the third and they extended it in the opening minute when Cirelli slid in a rebound from the front of the net. (Four of the five Lightning goals came from just outside the blue paint). Up until the final minutes, the Lightning locked down the game. Unlike the second period, the Canadiens didn't create scoring chances when they had the puck in the Lightning's end. Instead, the Bolts effectively moved pucks out of danger and generated good looks at the other end. They nearly added to the lead on multiple occasions. Tyler Johnson had a goal disallowed due to a high stick deflection.
The Habs had a quiet power play at the halfway point of the period. But they were much noisier when they received their second man advantage with just over three minutes left. They repeatedly won faceoffs to maintain possession and applied consistent pressure on Andrei Vasilevskiy. They posted six of their 13 third period shots during that power play. And they scored late on the advantage, pulling to within a goal at 18:32. But they would not record another shot on net after that.
In the end, the Lightning played well enough to get past the rough start and white-knuckle finish. They've now won 10 consecutive divisional games.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1. Victor Hedman - Lightning. Career-high four assists.
2. Alex Killorn - Lightning. Two goals and assist.
3. Steven Stamkos - Lightning. Goal and assist. 800 career points.