The halfway mark of the season is where the playoff picture starts to really take shape in the NHL. Coming into Thursday’s 40th game the Tampa Bay Lightning held the highest point total in the Eastern Conference, but entered the Bell Centre to play a desperate Montreal Canadiens team. The Canadiens certainly played that way. Two of the best goalies in the league went toe-to-toe in Andrei Vasilevskiy and Carey Price. Both goalies only blinked once at the start of the 2nd period, but the teams entered overtime tied at 1 goal a piece. Neither goaltender could be moved in overtime either and, fittingly, this was decided in a shootout. Carey Price got a little help when Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov both missed the net in the shootout, but that was enough to secure the victory thanks to Montreal netting the only goal of the shootout for the 2-1 victory.
The struggling Canadiens came out ready to play in this game. Andrei Vasilevskiy had to be ready from the drop of the puck. The Lightning goaltender had to make a fantastic save on Max Pacioretty on the very 1st shift of the game. The Montreal continued early on, but Vasilevskiy made a save on an Andrew Shaw breakaway chance. The best Lightning chance of the period came in the 2nd half of the period. Ryan Callahan had a great chance in his 1st game returning from injury, but was denied by Carey Price.
After the scoreless first, things opened up early in the middle period. Price made a great save seconds in and then Pacioretty was able to get it past Vasilevskiy on the counter attack to give his team the lead. The top line of the Lightning was able to answer though. Nikita Kucherov continued his great goal scoring season by putting it past Price to tie the game less than a minute later. The play was a lot more open for the remainder of the period than it was in the 1st. Both goalies had to make saves to keep the game tied. The best chance for either team probably came in a sequence where the Bolts got off 3 shots on Price. The Montreal goalie showed why he makes as much money as he does by making all 3 saves and sending the game to the 3rd period still tied at 1.
The 1st great chance of the 3rd period went to the Lightning. Kucherov got in on a breakaway and had a chance for his 2nd goal of the night, but this time Price would win the duel and send the shot away and out of play. Montreal’s chance to take the lead came with a power play opportunity near the 10-minute mark of the frame. The Lightning penalty kill performed admirably and prevented the Canadiens from getting any substantial scoring chances. Both teams went up and down the ice, but both goalies continued to play tremendously and it took overtime to decide the game.
Both goaltenders were once again fantastic in overtime. Price had to make 5 more saves and Vasilevskiy made 3 to send the game to a shootout. Price got help when Kucherov and Stamkos both missed the net and Paul Byron’s goal would be enough to get Montreal the victory.
The Bolts still have 2 games to go on this road trip and they will come in the form of a back-to-back. The 1st half of said back-to-back comes on Saturday night in Ottawa. The puck is scheduled to drop against the Senators at 7 pm. Pregame coverage will begin 30 minutes prior on News Radio 970 WFLA.
1. MTL - Pacioretty - (Unassisted) - 0:20
2. TBL - Kucherov - (Stamkos, Hedman) - 1:04
1. MTL - Galchenyuk - (High Sticking) - 9:57
2.MTL - Drouin - (Tripping) - 19:41
3. TBL - Gourde - (Tripping) - 19:58
1. TBL - Kunitz - (Unsportsmanlike Conduct) - 9:53
SHOTS ON GOAL
Tampa Bay - 45
Montreal - 38