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Lightning cut losing streak short against Canadiens

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- The Tampa Bay Lightning have become masters of moving forward without taking too many steps back.

The resilient Lightning, still awaiting the return of center Steven Stamkos from a broken right tibia, exhibited that quality again Saturday when Nate Thompson's second goal of the game, with 23.1 seconds remaining in overtime, gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.

The victory halted a Lightning losing streak at two games, Tampa Bay's longest since losing two in a row in regulation on Nov. 29 and Dec. 3. Tampa Bay has lost three games in a row in regulation once this season, from Nov. 16 to Nov. 21, a run that began two games after Stamkos was injured Nov. 11 in a 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins.

"We've done a really good job this year of stopping the bleeding," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We haven't dropped a couple in a row in regulation, I think the last time was November, so to do three in a row would be rare. I think the guys knew it.

"They dig deep when times get tough, and that was a big one for us."

The Lightning spent most of the overtime in their own zone while being outshot 5-0 until forward Alex Killorn came down right wing and sent the puck behind the Montreal net. Defenseman Victor Hedman picked it up off the end boards and sent it out in front to Thompson, who tapped it in the open side for his fifth goal of the season.

Hedman set up each of Thompson's goals for the Lightning (32-18-5).

Daniel Briere scored in the third period for the Canadiens (29-20-6), whose first two-game winning streak of 2014 ended.

Montreal had an excellent opportunity to win the game when Tampa Bay defenseman Eric Brewer took an interference penalty at 18:55 of the third period, giving the Canadiens a 4-on-3 advantage for the first 55 seconds of overtime. Not only did the Canadiens fail to score, they didn't generate a shot on goal despite all the room on the ice.

"I couldn't say enough about our penalty kill," Cooper said. "I guess the good thing was we got a little over a minute of the 5-on-4, so there wasn't a lot of time to kill [on the 4-on-3]. But our PK guys did a heck of a job to keep us around and give us a chance to win."

Montreal's power play finished 0-for-4 with five shots on goal, compared with four shots and a goal scored for the Lightning while shorthanded. Montreal is 4-for-41 (9.8 percent) in its past 13 games.

"We have to get back to putting pucks on net regularly," power-play quarterback P.K. Subban said. "We want to make plays and be creative out there, but when we've had success on the power play it's just putting the puck on net and guys being there. We have to simplify things a bit more."

The Lightning was missing second-line center Valtteri Filppula, who sustained a lower-body injury in a 5-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. There were also some questions whether goaltender Ben Bishop would be able to play after he left that game with a head injury. Not only did Bishop play, he made 28 saves to earn his 27th victory of the season.

"I felt good," Bishop said. "I woke up today feeling a lot better than yesterday, to be honest. I was ready to go and I felt good out there.

"If I was feeling like I did yesterday I probably wasn't going to play."

Bishop made five saves in OT. Earlier in the game, he got into an altercation with Montreal forward Brandon Prust during a television timeout.

"That said to me that his head was OK," Cooper said, joking.

Carey Price was outstanding in the Montreal net, making 34 saves with much of the play during regulation taking place in the Canadiens' end. There was nothing he could do about the winning goal, and Thompson's second-period shorthanded goal was tipped past Price by Subban.

"It's just an unlucky break," Subban said. "That's a tough break for [Price], he played a great game."

There was a penalty shot called at 4:41 of the first period when Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov was hooked by Montreal rookie defenseman Nathan Beaulieu during a partial breakaway. Price denied Kucherov with a pad save .

Then there was the back-and-forth between Prust and Bishop during a timeout in the second period, which resulted in a scrum that led to offsetting minor penalties to Bishop and Price, 10-minute misconducts to Montreal's George Parros and Tampa Bay's Radko Gudas, and a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct to Prust.

Bishop said he didn't understand how the whole thing began.

"I don't even know what I did in the game that made [Prust] so mad, but he came down and started yelling," Bishop said. "I don't know if he was trying to get me off my game or what. I don't know. It was fun now that I look back on it."

Prust said, "He was whining to the ref, he'd kind of been whining all game. I'd heard him yapping all game so I just told to quit whining and shut up. He didn't like that, so he started yelling at me and I yelled at him, then he came at me."

The Lightning took the lead at 5:58 of the second period with a shorthanded goal credited to Thompson when his centering pass to J.T. Brown was tipped by Subban and went past Price.

The Canadiens tied it at 7:25 of the third period when Briere took a pass in the left circle and beat Bishop high with a wrist shot for his ninth goal of the season.

"That's a [heck] of a shot," Cooper said. "I don't know who's stopping that one."

The Canadiens will be back at Bell Centre on Sunday afternoon to face the Winnipeg Jets. The Lightning wrap up a four-game road trip Tuesday with a game against the Minnesota Wild.

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