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Canadiens-Lightning Preview

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Cristobal Huet's strong play is one reason why the Montreal Canadiens are challenging for the Northeast Division lead. His latest performance, though, shows they still have a lot of work to do.

Alexei Kovalev (center) has goals in four straight games versus the Lightning. (Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

Huet and the Canadiens look to rebound from one of their worst games of the season as they continue a three-game road trip against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

With a chance to pull within one point of Ottawa for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens fell behind 3-0 less than five minutes into the game and lost 6-1 on Saturday.

Huet stopped only one of four shots before he was pulled 4:45 into the opening period. Rookie Carey Price then surrendered three goals on the final 25 shots. Huet was 10-3-1 with a 2.53 goals-against average and one shutout in his previous 14 starts.

It was the second straight loss and third in four games for Montreal (29-18-9), which dropped five points behind the Senators.

"They definitely played a great game," Huet said. "We were aware of that and we wanted them to have their best players in the lineup but we didn't compete enough so it was a pretty embarrassing night for us."

The Canadiens, who haven't lost three straight in regulation all season, allowed a season-high six goals.

"They came out obviously effectively - the first 5 minutes and we were down 3-0," captain Saku Koivu said. "It's not the situation we wanted to be in, especially against a team like that."

With games on consecutive nights, Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau likely will give Price a start either Tuesday or Wednesday against Florida. Huet has won both starts this season against Tampa Bay (23-27-6) while Price played well in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Lightning on Dec. 11.

Johan Holmqvist is 6-1-1 with a 2.40 GAA in his last nine starts. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The Canadiens are 8-2-1 against the Lighting since the start of the 2005-06 season, winning four of their last five visits to Tampa Bay.

Alexei Kovalev, Montreal's leader in goals (25) and points (54), has goals in four straight games against Tampa Bay.

A pair of Canadiens - rookie defenseman Ryan O'Byrne and right wing Thomas Kostopoulos - were arrested outside a Tampa nightclub on Sunday night, but both could play Tuesday. O'Byrne was charged with felony grand theft and released after posting $2,000 bail. Kostopoulos faces a misdemeanor count of resisting an officer without violence and was freed on $500 bail.

"You wish these things didn't happen, but once things happen, trying to go backwards isn't a possibility, so we move ahead," Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey said.

Although the Lightning own the worst record in the conference, they are only seven points behind Southeast Division-leading Washington.

Tampa Bay completed a three-game trip Saturday with a 2-1 overtime loss to Atlanta, snapping its six-game road win streak. Vincent Lecavalier scored his 32nd goal for the Lightning, who posted one-goal victories over St. Louis and Nashville on the first two stops on the trip.

"We'll be right there," forward Martin St. Louis said. "Everybody is beating everybody."

If the Lightning are going to make a run at a playoff spot, they have to play better at home, where they have won only three of their last 14 games (3-10-1).

Johan Holmqvist had lost his starting job recently to rookie Karri Ramo, but appears to have taken control of the No. 1 role again. Holmqvist is 6-1-1 with a 2.40 GAA in his last nine starts.

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