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Canadiens vs. Lightning game recap: Not good enough

The Canadiens couldn’t quite match up with the league’s best team.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Looking to bounce back after a disappointing loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Montreal Canadiens headed into Amalie Arena to take on the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Lightning quickly took advantage of a slow-starting Canadiens squad to ramp up their shot count in the opening minutes of the first. If not for Carey Price’s spectacular performance early on, the Canadiens could have easily found themselves down a goal or two in the opening minutes.

Image credit: HockeyStats.ca

Tampa Bay’s dominance forced Montreal on their heels, culminating in Tomas Plekanec being sent off for a holding penalty just under five minutes into the frame. The Canadiens were able to successfully withstand the Lightning’s barrage on the ensuing power play, though scuffles broke out following the end of the play as tempers began to flare.

With Price turning away every shot he faced, Montreal was able to regroup and mount some offensive pressure of its own. The Canadiens matched the Lightning shot for shot, until a tripping penalty to Alex Killorn derailed their momentum.

Montreal’s power play remained ineffective, with Canadiens players spending more time retrieving the puck from their own end than keeping it in Tampa Bay’s zone.

As the man advantage came to an end, however, Montreal was once again able to find their legs. Only a couple of highlight-reel saves from Andrei Vasilevskiy prevented the Canadiens from getting on the board first.

Despite ending the period on a relatively high note, the Canadiens still started the second period down a man. Karl Alzner was assessed a late cross-checking penalty, and this allowed the Lightning to start the second period on the man advantage, their second of the night. Yet, Montreal’s penalty kill held them at bay, bolstered by a strong showing from Price.

Tampa Bay would run into some penalty trouble of their own, when Andrej Sustr was given two minutes for high-sticking Paul Byron. The Canadiens made no mistake on the resulting power play, as Brendan Gallagher tipped Hudon’s shot past Vasilevskiy, his 15th goal of the season giving the Canadiens an early lead.

The march to the penalty box didn’t stop there, as first Jordie Benn was sent off for a delay of game penalty just over seven minutes into the period. While over two minutes later, Alex Galchenyuk was called for a goaltender interference penalty. Montreal’s penalty killers held their ground though, getting progressively better at killing penalties as the game wore on. They allowed no goals on either penalty.

But a strong penalty kill wasn’t quite enough to get the Canadiens out of the period unscathed. A last-minute push by Nikita Kucherov, saw him connect with teammate Steven Stamkos, who made it a 1-1 game heading in to the final 20 minutes.

Unfortunately for Montreal, they began the third period much like they ended the second. Brayden Point gave the Tampa Bay Lightning their first lead of the game a mere 30 seconds into the frame. Though Price was able to make a couple of saves on the play, the Canadiens were unable to clear the puck out of the crease.

Under pressure early, Montreal took penalties while trying to stall Tampa Bay’s momentum. Nicolas Deslauriers got two minutes for holding, while a hooking call went against Max Pacioretty during the resulting penalty kill.

Despite struggling on the man advantage all game long, the Lightning finally broke through on their sixth attempt of the night. Stamkos scored his second of the game on the two-man advantage and put Tampa Bay up by two.

With a touch over two minutes left in the third, the Canadiens pulled Price to ice an extra attacker. It wasn’t enough though, as Montreal dropped this game to Tampa Bay by a final score of 3-1.

Thoughts

  • If not for Carey Price, this game could have been so much worse. Price kept his team in the game for long stretches at a time, giving the Canadiens every opportunity to pull even with the Lightning. Considering just how lacklustre the Canadiens looked in the opening minutes of the first period, without Price being at the top of his game, the Canadiens could easily have faced an early one- or two-goal deficit.
  • Daniel Carr is making the most of his call-up, and definitely held his own against the Lightning. Carr led the Canadiens with a 68% shot-attempts-for percentage. Hopefully his performance will warrant an increase in ice time, as he was only given 8:30 of ice time in this game.
  • Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Canadiens gave up two goals in under a minute again. This was the 12th time this season, that the Canadiens have managed this feat. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, what is it about giving up a goal that causes the Canadiens to completely lose their bearings? Up until they gave up a last-minute goal to Steven Stamkos, Montreal seemed to be the more confident team. They were going toe to toe against the best team in the league and holding their own. Yet, one goal was enough to deflate the entire team to the point where they gave up another goal a mere 30 seconds into the third period.