MONTREAL-- The Montreal Canadiens came from behind twice & scored two third period goals in less than three minutes to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2. The Canadiens improved to 6-1-1 in their last eight games, giving them 94 points with two games left in their regular season. While the Lightning must sweep their remaining two games to tie the all-time record of 62 wins in a season, set by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings.
The meeting on Tuesday night was the fourth & final meeting between the two teams with Tampa Bay winning the previous three games, outscoring Montreal 13-6 in those games. And while Tampa Bay has already secured home ice advantage throughout the playoffs, Montreal was looking for their 24th home victory, as they continue their battle to earn a playoff spot.
The Lightning, who were playing their second game in two nights & third in four nights, got the first shot on net from either team just one minute into the game. And the Lightning eventually took a 1-0 lead less than three minutes into the first period. The scoring play started with some forechecking from forward Nikita Kucherov & after retrieving the puck behind the net, center Steven Stamkos flipped a backhanded shot from behind the Canadiens' net, which deflected off of center Max Domi & ended up behind Canadiens goalie Carey Price. For Stamkos it was his team leading 43rd goal & his second goal in two nights.
The Lightning were able to kill off the game's first penalty after defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was called for interference. But less than 30 seconds after that penalty was over, the Canadiens tied the score up at one. And what looked like a simple dump in turned into a scoring chance for the Canadiens when the puck hit the referee who was to the right of Lightning goalie Edward Pasquale. That deflection ended up being picked up by forward Paul Byron, who fed Nate Thompson & the center shot the puck high over Pasqualle, tying the game at one.
Montreal outshot Tampa Bay 19 to six in the first period & had 12 quality scoring chances including two breakaways. But Pasquale, who was getting the start because backup goalie Louis Domingue is nursing a lower body injury, made several outstanding saves including two on breakaways. And with their netminder keeping them from failing behind in the first 20 minutes, the Lightning came out in the second period & grabbed another one goal lead after center Cedric Paquette tipped in a pass from forward Adam Erne into the net for his 13th goal of the season.
The Lightning 2-1 lead lasted just over three minutes because of another weird goal, with this time the Canadiens benefitting from a behind the net shot by forward Joel Armia, that bounced off Pasqaule & into the net.
The second period ended tied at two but it was clear, the Canadiens had the better scoring chances again in the middle 20 minutes. And through the first two periods, the Canadiens outshot the Lightning 35-18. But the teams started the final 20 minutes of the game knowing in the previous three meetings between the two teams this season, the Lightning outscored the Canadiens seven to nothing in the third period.
Within the first six minutes of the third period, both teams had opportunities to break the tie including scoring chances for Erne & Kucherov. But the home team may have had the best chance within that time frame when forward Brendan Gallagher snapped a shot high off one of the goal posts.
After nearly eight minutes of both teams threatening to get the puck into the net, the Canadiens were able to get their third goal when Artturi Lehkonen batted a shot out of the air that Pasquale tried to glove but was unable to handle. And after getting the puck away from Pasquale, the Canadiens forward slapped the puck past the Lightning goalie, giving the home team the lead.
The Lightning challenged the game-tying goal, claiming that Lehkonen interfered with Pasquale as he attempted to catch the puck with his glove. But the Lightning lost their challenge & less than three minutes later, Max Domi took advantage of the Lightning defenseman being on the same side of the ice. The Canadiens center broke in from the blue line on a semi-breakaway & ripped a low shot past Pasquale on his glove side, making the score 4-2.
The Lightning attempted to cut into the deficit by pulling Pasquale with over three minutes left in the third period. But even after matching penalties were called just seconds after the Lightning net was empty & the teams played four on four, the Canadiens were able to keep the Lightning from creating major traffic in front of Price.
Tampa Bay has Wednesday off but will travel to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs on Thursday in the second to last game of the season. Coverage starts on News Radio WFLA with the pre-game at 6:30pm & face-off scheduled for 7:00pm.
1. TBL- Stamkos 43rd Goal (Unassisted)- 2:28
2. MON- Thompson 5th Goal (Byron, Benn)- 12:23
1. TBL- Paquette 13th Goal (Erne, Cernak)- 4:18
2. MON- Armia 13th Goal (Tatar, Danault)- 7:32
1. MON- Lehkonen 11th Goal (Mete, Shaw)- 7:47
2. MON- Domi 28th Goal (Lehkonen, Benn)- 10:08
1. TBL- Sergachev (Interference 2 Min)- 9:58
1. TBL- Point (Holding 2 Min)- 13:39
1. MON- Tatar (Holding 2 Min)- 2:55
2. TBL- Cernak (Unsportsmanlike 2 Min)- 2:55