Canadiens extend winning streak
Montreal defeats Tampa Bay for third straight victoryby Sean Farrell / NHL.com Correspondent
MONTREAL -- Tomas Plekanec has been leading the revival of the Montreal Canadiens' offense through their first winning streak in more than two months.
Plekanec scored twice and had an assist, and Montreal extended its winning streak to three games with a 4-2 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Bell Centre on Tuesday.
Brendan Gallagher had a goal and an assist, and Ben Scrivens made 37 saves to win his third straight start for the Canadiens (27-24-4), who had not won consecutive games since a four-game winning streak from Nov. 20-27.
"It was longer than it should have been," Plekanec said. "I'm not a fan of saying that I didn't get a bounce here or there, but you play differently when you get those good first periods, when you get the goal and get something going right away. When you don't, you get yourself in a hole and that's what happened."
Plekanec has eight points in his past four games, including the seventh four-point game of his NHL career in a 5-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
"[Plekanec is] playing extremely well for us," Scrivens said. "It seems like he's either scoring every night or at least generating chances and making the guys on his line better, so that's what we need from him and it's great to see him step up and be a leader just by his actions on the ice. He's not the loudest guy in the room, but the guys are definitely taking notice of what he's doing on the ice."
Defenseman P.K. Subban extended his point streak to an NHL career-high seven games with an assist on Devante Smith-Pelly's goal with eight seconds remaining in the second period that increased Montreal's lead to 3-1.
The Canadiens have scored four or more goals twice during their winning streak, during which they've outscored their opponents 11-4. Prior to the streak, they scored three goals or fewer in 27 of their previous 29 games; during that span they scored 57 goals, an average of less than two per game.
Video: TBL@MTL: Plekanec launches wrist shot for second goal
Tampa Bay's Valtteri Filppula scored 40 seconds into the second to tie the game 1-1, and defenseman Victor Hedman had a goal midway through the third. Ben Bishop made 23 saves for the Lightning, who started this two-game road trip with a 5-1 loss at the Ottawa Senators on Monday.
Tampa Bay (29-20-4) had not lost consecutive games in regulation since Nov. 27-28.
"Ultimately the net was a little smaller for us and they shoot a puck wide, it deflects off a skate and goes in, and we seemed to hit the post all night," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Their goalie played well, but we got scoring from one line. We scored three goals in two nights and one line got all three of them, so when your top guys aren't scoring it makes it a little tougher for us."
Tampa Bay is tied with the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins for second place in the Atlantic Division with 62 points, four ahead of fifth-place Montreal and six ahead of sixth-place Ottawa, though the Lightning have more regulation and overtime wins than Detroit or Boston.
The Lightning begin a four-game homestand Friday against the Nashville Predators.
"Obviously you'd like to win these when you're ahead of teams like this but (there's) not much you can do about it now," Bishop said. "We have four really good teams coming in here so it's going to be important to put this behind us and get ready."
Montreal plays at the Buffalo Sabres on Friday in the first of a three-game road trip.
Plekanec assisted on Gallagher's 14th goal, which gave Montreal a 1-0 lead at 5:56 of the first period.
Video: TBL@MTL: Scrivens makes a fine catch on Carle's shot
"It all comes from a great defensive play by [Plekanec]," Gallagher said. "He's in the right position defensively, it leads to offense, and I was actually looking at him, I saw the [defenseman] slide and fortunately enough it went in, but it doesn't happen if he doesn't come back, defend the right way, and it leads to a scoring chance."
Filppula tied it when he took advantage of a screen by Ryan Callahan to beat Scrivens with a shot inside the right post.
Plekanec made it 2-1 at 6:40 of the second, scoring on a backhand shot that trickled between Bishop's pads.
Subban got his team-leading 38th assist and 43rd point with a backhand to the crease that went into the net off Smith-Pelly's left skate.
Plekanec increased the lead to 4-1 when he patiently held the puck as he drove wide on Bishop before scoring his 12th goal from a tight angle at 6:17 of the third period.
Hedman's backhand made it 4-2 at 9:03 before Scrivens could scramble back into his crease.
Tampa Bay outshot Montreal 16-6 in the third.
"[Scrivens] played well. We hit some posts," Callahan said. "That's the response we wanted in the third, being down two goals. We came at them hard but you get yourself in that situation and you let that happen, you know, their goalie gets hot or you don't get a bounce here or there, you can't feel sorry for yourself for going down by two goals going into that period."
The Canadiens lost defenseman Nathan Beaulieu and forward Brian Flynn on the same shift in the second period. Each sustained a lower-body injury, and neither returned. Flynn will miss 6-8 weeks; Beaulieu is day-to-day.
Beaulieu was in the lineup after he was a healthy scratch for the past two games.