Sporting an abysmal 3-7-0 record in their last 10 games, the Montreal Canadiens welcomed the Tampa Bay Lightning hoping to snap a four-game losing streak. Unimpressed by the team’s lethargic performance against the San Jose Sharks, Coach Claude Julien tinkered with his lineup again. Nicolas Deslauriers and Jacob de la Rose dressed in place of Byron Froese and Daniel Carr.
The Canadiens began the period with a great chance to get on the board first. Phillip Danault found a streaking Max Pacioretty, but the Captain was denied by a desperate kick save from Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Undeterred, Montreal continued to pressure through the rest of the period and trapped Tampa Bay in their own zone for stretches at a time. Despite forcing the Lightning onto their heels, it was the Habs who took the first penalty of the game.
Alex Galchenyuk was sent off high-sticking Yanni Gourde nearly halfway through the period, to put Tampa Bay on the man advantage. But the Lightning’s deadly power play couldn’t even manage a shot on net, as the Canadiens’ penalty kill had little trouble neutralizing Tampa Bay’s top guns.
Both teams continued to exchange shots through the remainder of the first, but Vasilevskiy and Carey Price kept it a scoreless game.
A late tripping call against Jonathan Drouin in the final minute of the period threatened to put the Lightning on the man advantage to begin the second. However, Paul Byron made the most of the 20 seconds still left on the clock, to draw a penalty of his own.
With Gourde also sent off for tripping with less than two seconds remaining in the first period, the Canadiens got set to play four-on-four hockey to start the second. Making up for his earlier miss, Pacioretty scored on a solo effort 20 seconds in to give Montreal the first lead of the game. The Captain got his ninth goal of the season, snapping his 13 game goalless drought in the process.
The lead was not destined to last long, as Nikita Kucherov responded for Tampa Bay less than a minute later to tie the game. It was all Lightning from that point on, as the visitors controlled play throughout the rest of the period. In a reversal of fortunes, it was the Canadiens who struggled to generate sustained offensive pressure in the second.
Despite the strong push for a go ahead goal from Tampa Bay, Montreal would get the best scoring chance of the frame. With less than eight minutes left, the Canadiens got a great three-on-one opportunity but Vasilevskiy made an easy save on Danault, to keep it a 1-1 game.
After the whistle, Charles Hudon drew a crowd as he got into a scuffle with Kunitz and Vasilevskiy. Hudon’s efforts to draw a penalty went in vain, as no calls were made after the play.
The Canadiens did show some signs of life in the final minutes of the frame, as Pacioretty, and later Deslauriers and Jerabek, all managed cut through the Lightning defence to get some dangerous shots on net. Yet, they couldn’t get one past Vasilevskiy, as Montreal headed into the third period with the score still tied at one.
Hudon continued to be a thorn in Tampa Bay’s side, releasing a quick shot off the rush that was turned aside by Vasilevskiy, less than two minutes in.
It seemed as though Montreal had lost Brendan Gallagher minutes later, as a hit from Mikhail Sergachev temporarily took him out of the game. Gallagher would return as the period wore on, seemingly no worse for wear.
A strong effort from the Canadiens in the third period was nearly undone, as a Karl Alzner turnover sprang Kucherov on a breakaway. Luckily, Price remained solid in net and made the save.
Montreal’s relentless pressure would pay off later in the frame, when Gallagher drew a tripping call on his drive to the Lightning net. With Kunitz in the box for two minutes, the Canadiens got their second power play of the night. Nothing would come it though, as Montreal squandered their opportunity to grab the lead on the resulting man advantage.
Both teams exchanged chances as the period came to a close, but neither team could break the deadlock.
An entertaining three-on-three overtime saw the trio of Galchenyuk, Drouin and Jerabek nearly grab a win for Montreal, mere seconds in. Vasilevskiy though, refused to give up a goal on the sequence and kept giving his team another opportunity to extend the Canadiens’ losing steak.
Vasilevskiy’s early saves would prove crucial, as it allowed Ondrej Palat to create a two-on-one the other way. Palat’s drive forced Price to make two incredible saves in quick succession. Forced on his back after making the first save, Price rolled back to kick out his right pad to make an even spectacular second save to rob Palat of a game winning goal.
The Lightning started to dominate as overtime went on. Perhaps sensing that this was not the same squad they had faced a few nights ago, Tampa Bay peppered Price with shots in the hopes of ending the game quickly. Yet, Price managed to weather to storm to send the game to a shootout.
Byron was the only player to get a puck past either goaltender in the shootout, and his lone marker would be enough to snap Montreal’s losing steak. A 44-save performance from Carey Price, saw the Canadiens finally skate away with a much needed win.
- Max Pacioretty finally got the monkey off his back. The Captain scored his ninth goal of the season, snapping a 13-game goalless drought in the process. Despite sporting a career low shooting percentage this season, Pacioretty is still putting a ton of shots on net and it is only a matter of time before the dam breaks completely. He is certainly due for a lot more goals.
- What more needs to be said about Carey Price, that hasn’t already been said before? Not only did Price post a ridiculous .978 SV% against the league’s highest scoring team, he did it in style. His save on Palat in overtime might be his best save all season, one that is sure to leave Palat wondering just how he missed a wide open net. But that’s Carey Price isn’t it? He is always making the impossible, possible.
- There was a marked difference in the Montreal Canadiens team that took on the Tampa Bay Lightning three games ago, and the Montreal Canadiens that took on the Lightning in this game. There was a palpable change in the team’s attitude in this game. For once, the Canadiens weren’t passive and tentative with the puck. Rather, they pressured early and often. It didn’t matter that the Lightning were supposedly the far superior team, the Canadiens battled it out anyway. Whatever spark this team seemed to have missed all season long, it was there in this game.