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Lightning rally to spoil Canadiens' home opener

by Arpon Basu
MONTREAL -- With a new owner, a new general manager, a new coaching staff and a bunch of new players, this is clearly a different Tampa Bay Lightning team. But the team's brightest young star has noticed something else that's different about this team only two games into this season: a new, winning attitude.

Steven Stamkos scored a power-play goal with 1:19 to play in regulation and Ryan Malone scored with 51 seconds left in overtime as the Lightning spoiled the Montreal Canadiens' home opener and an outstanding performance by Carey Price with a come-from-behind 4-3 win Wednesday night.

"For the guys who have been here the last couple of years, that's exactly what we've been missing -- that killer instinct, that quiet confidence that you have the talent, the work ethic and drive to come back," said Stamkos, the first pick in the 2008 Entry Draft who scored 51 goals last season and already has three through two games this season. "We had a shaky first period, the coach let us know about that, but the last two periods we took it took it to them."

Brett Clark and Martin St. Louis got the other goals for Tampa Bay (2-0-0) while Mike Smith made 24 saves for the Lightning, who got coach Guy Boucher a win against the organization he worked for last season when he led the Canadiens' minor-league affiliate in Hamilton to the conference finals and won AHL coach of the year honors.

"I could lie to you, but I have to admit it's pretty special," said Boucher, a Montreal native. "This is a team I watched my whole life, this is my home. I can't pretend like it's not special, because it was."

Tomas Plekanec had a goal and an assist and the Canadiens (1-1-1) also got goals from Andrei Kostitsyn and Maxim Lapierre, but Price was definitely the star on this night in spite of Montreal's loss.

Price was disconsolate in the Montreal room afterwards, his answers very brief and barely audible as he wore his disappointment with how the night turned out on his sleeve.

"It's not about me, it's about the team," said Price, voted the game's second star by the fans as the Canadiens debuted their new online and mobile voting system for three-star selections. "I thought we had a chance to win the game and we couldn't do it."

The same crowd that was booing Price in the first period of the first preseason game was chanting his name by the third period -- but he could do nothing to prevent the Lightning from coming back in the dying minutes.

With Montreal trying to hold on to a 3-2 lead, rookie defenseman P.K. Subban was called for slashing with 2:12 to play in regulation. The Bell Centre crowd was livid, but coach Jacques Martin put the responsibility for the penalty on the shoulders of Subban.

"With two minutes left, when you're making a check your stick has to be on the ice," Martin said. "These are things he will learn with experience."

Boucher pulled Smith for an extra attacker to make it a 6-on-4 and the Lightning capitalized, with Vincent Lecavalier finding Stamkos in the lower left circle through a maze of bodies -- and Stamkos one-timed a blast into the wide-open net for the tying goal.

"It was a big scramble in front, Vinny kind of waited out everyone and by the time I got the puck, I think I could have had a donut and a coffee and put it in," Stamkos said. "He made such a great play to suck everyone out and throw it out to me."

With the clock ticking down in overtime and another goalmouth scramble forming around Price's crease, Malone picked up a loose puck that was standing on edge and swatted it upstairs at 4:09 to give Tampa Bay the unlikely win.

"To come back like this will help with the process of bringing this team together, because half the team is new and our coaching staff is new," Boucher said. "It's tough to put things in place quickly, so a moment like this will help."

The Canadiens, who opened the season by splitting games at Toronto and Pittsburgh, lived up to their reputation for putting on one of the finest pregame presentations in the NHL. The opening night ceremonies began with a video juxtaposing shots of youngsters expressing their dreams of playing for the Habs with home videos and old photos of members of the current team. The Canadiens players then skated to center ice and stood around the faceoff circle, as newly minted captain Brian Gionta introduced each of his teammates in both English and French.

The Canadiens appeared to be inspired by the festivities, as they were all over the Lightning at the start, ultimately resulting in Lapierre pouncing on a giveaway by Michael Vernace in the slot and beating Smith high to the blocker side at 5:22 of the opening period.

"I think we had trouble managing the emotion in the building and the Canadiens came out very strong," Boucher said. "Tactically they were well prepared."
Plekanec made it 2-0 at 18:07 on a terrific play by Michael Cammalleri, who crossed the blue line, took a shot on Smith, collected his own rebound and from an impossible angle found Plekanec alone on the opposite side of the slot. Plekanec easily one-timed it into the yawning cage for his first of the season and Cammalleri's third point in two games.

But Cammalleri was in the box early in the second when the Lightning cut the deficit in half when Clark's point shot bounced its way through a crowd and past a totally screened Price at 1:44 to make it a 2-1 game.

The Lightning tied it at 10:54 of the third when the Canadiens failed on a clearing attempt and the puck bounced to Stamkos near the blue line. Subban kicked at his weak shot in front of Price and the puck bounced right in front to St. Louis, who put it past a diving Price to make it 2-2.

But Montreal got the lead right back 31 seconds later when Plekanec fed Kostitsyn with a perfect saucer pass on a 2-on-1, and Kostitsyn cut past Smith and flipped home a backhand at 11:25 for a 3-2 lead.
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