TAMPA – The Montreal Canadiens are determined not to let their season end this quickly.
The Canadiens controlled most of the play in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Second Round series on Wednesday, but they were stunned when Tyler Johnson's goal with 1.1 seconds remaining in regulation gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 2-1 victory and a 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.
The Canadiens are facing the prospect of being swept as they prepare Game 4 at Amalie Arena on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports). The quick turnaround means they can't dwell on the deflating loss.
"Good thing we don't have much time to think about it," defenseman P.K. Subban said, "so we got to come back tomorrow ready to keep our season alive."
The Canadiens played like a desperate team Wednesday. They held the Lightning to three shots in the second period and limited them to three shots while killing all three Tampa Bay power plays. When Brendan Gallagher battled in front of the net and knocked in a rebound for the game-tying goal at 10:03 of the third period, it appeared that Montreal had finally seized the momentum.
Instead, Johnson's beat-the-clock goal put the Canadiens one loss from an early summer. They'll have less than 24 hours to regroup, and they need a win to send the series back to Bell Centre.
Forward Max Pacioretty was clearly stunned and frustrated by the loss, but he still believes that this series is up for grabs and said it's not tough to stay positive after the Canadiens' effort in Game 3.
"We have a special group in this room, and we've faced a lot of adversity this year," Pacioretty said. "This is obviously one of the biggest times where we have to face it and be strong but you can't do that individually, you have to do it as a group."
What made the loss sting even more was that the Canadiens did so many things right. Even after falling behind 1-0 on Alex Killorn's goal at 12:00 of the first period, there was no panic as Montreal continued to press and create scoring chances.
The Canadiens held a 31-19 advantage in shots on goal and a 69-41 advantage in shot attempts. They won 52 percent of the faceoffs. The penalty-kill was filling lanes so well the Lightning's power play was forced to cycle the puck while trying to find an open shooting lane.
But that wasn't enough. Shots that could have been goals hit posts or were gobbled up by Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop. Loose pucks and rebounds in front of the net slithered away or bounced just out of reach.
"There's always more you can do when you don't win and you only score one goal," Pacioretty said. "But you find a way to stay positive and play that way tomorrow."
Subban feels the Canadiens can't worry about unlucky bounces or their frustration will continue to mount.
"I think if you have the right mindset and focusing on things you can control, you don't have time to dwell on bounces," Subban said. "We created scoring chances, we had opportunities to score and it didn't go in for us, but we stuck to the game plan. I thought we did a good job building momentum but this is the playoffs, and all it takes is one turnover and that could be the game.
"Sometimes you're on the good end of it, sometimes you're on the bad and we got the bad end tonight."
Coach Michel Therrien didn't want to talk about any mistakes that led to Johnson's goal. His concern is getting the same kind of performance from his team Thursday, with a different result. If he can do that, the Canadiens will get on a plane back to Montreal and a chance to extend the series in front of their own fans.
"I don't want to talk about the mistake," Therrien said. "We're not here to point fingers and that's the last thing I want to do. I'd rather concentrate on the work ethic the guys showed. The only thing we're looking for is to try to bring the series back to Montreal."