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Canadiens keep Lightning's Stamkos from striking

by Arpon Basu /

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens forward Devante Smith-Pelly immediately wanted to change the subject.

Coming off a 2-1 double-overtime loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Smith-Pelly was asked Saturday what the Canadiens did to limit the effectiveness of Lightning captain Steven Stamkos.

"I don't really want to talk about it," Smith-Pelly said with a smile. "Maybe jinx it."

Stamkos was not much of a factor offensively in Game 1 and will hope to snap out of what has become one of the worst scoring slumps of his NHL career in Game 2 at Bell Centre on Sunday (6 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

It will be the Canadiens' job to make sure it doesn't happen, because if it does, the Lightning's chances of winning the series increase significantly.

"You look at the stat sheet and you see Stamkos didn't have a goal, but at the same time that's the guy you're really worried about," Smith-Pelly said. "If he gets one, chances are it's going to snowball the wrong way for us. We did a good job and we're going to continue to play hard on all their guys."

Dating to the final game of the regular season, Stamkos has not scored in nine games. It is his longest drought since he went 11 games without a goal from Dec. 2-26, 2008, his rookie season in the NHL.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper predicted following a Game 7 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday that Stamkos would break out soon. It didn't happen in Game 1.

According to, Stamkos has been on the ice for 23.01 scoring chances per 60 minutes of ice time at 5-on-5 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a significant drop from his regular season rate of 30.08. Stamkos was on the ice for eight Lightning scoring chances at 5-on-5 and 10 for the Canadiens in Game 1.

It will be the job of players including Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec to make sure that continues. He said there is no particular attention paid to Stamkos when he's on the ice, just more information to process.

"When you go out for a faceoff, you know he's [there]," Plekanec said. "So every time you know he has his spots, or you know where he's standing. It's not like he's there every single time, but you know about where he's trying to find his spot. When his guy has the puck in the corner, he's probably in his one-timer position or he's in the slot ready to shoot the puck.

"But again, it's not like you're thinking about it 100 percent. You know, you're aware."

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