Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EDT / 4:00 PM PDT
In the Canadiens region: TSN2 (English), RDS (French)
In the United States: NBCSN
Streaming: NHL.tv / NHL Live
It’s only five games old, but the Montreal Canadiens’ season certainly hasn’t lacked for entertainment. Saturday night’s convincing victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues only served to reinforce the rollercoaster ride that Canadiens fans have enjoyed/endured so far this campaign. Unfortunately, much of the excitement generated by the Habs has been the result of their own inconsistency. This is a team that could very easily be 5-0, and just as easily be 1-4.
Tale of the Tape
|1-3-0||H2H Record (18-19)||3-1-0|
|51.8% (11th)||Corsi-for pct.||43.4% (30th)|
|4.00 (4th)||Goals per game||4.00 (4th)|
|4.00 (27th)||Goals against per game||3.40 (20th)|
|25.0% (12th)||PP%||26.7% (9th)|
|64.7% (28th)||PK%||72.2% (24th)|
Montreal responded to their worst performance of their young season with their best, and their reward for their efforts just happens to be the reigning (regular season) kings of the Eastern Conference. Much like the Habs, the Lightning have struggled with consistency as they seek to avenge the memory of a lost 128-point season. A win in their season-opener against the Florida Panthers was met with two losses to those same Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes.
Brayden Point’s return to the lineup sparked a message-sending 7-3 demolition of the vaunted Toronto Maple Leafs, but that effort was followed up with a tame 4-2 capitulation at the hands of the lowly Ottawa Senators — a game where the Bolts were outshot 33-21.
Last season, Tampa took the season series against Montreal three victories to one, with the Canadiens’ sole win coming in April after the team had been eliminated from the playoffs. At the same time, the Canadiens acquitted themselves relatively well during at least two of those defeats, and if not for one particularly bad third period on December 29, 2018, could have earned a split against the elite of the elite of the NHL (in the regular season).
Forced to play backup Antti Niemi in both games of a back-to-back with Carey Price injured, the Canadiens jumped out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to a rare power-play tally and Kenny Agostino’s last goal in a Habs uniform. The Bolts, as befitting a team with only seven regulation losses to their name at that time, equalized before the period was out, but the Canadiens retook the lead almost immediately on a Jordie Benn point shot.
In the second frame, it was Tampa’s turn to get in the first punch, but two goals in the first half of the period by the boys in blue were matched by two in the second half by those donning the Sainte-Flanelle. That set the stage for a furious Tampa Bay onslaught in the third against a tired Habs team that had expended considerable energy to outshoot the home side 32-19 after 40 minutes, and the fatigue for the visitors began to show.
First, Adam Erne outmuscled Victor Mete to jump on a sloppy rebound offered up by Niemi, backhanding the puck past the Canadiens’ netminder to tie the game. Erne then put the dagger in the Habs’ backs with a quick wrist shot past Niemi’s glove after Yanni Gourde beat Max Domi and Mete in a puck battle down low in the corner.
Fatigue and injury won’t be a factor on Tuesday night as the Habs and Bolts face off for the first time in the 2019-20 season. The Canadiens are well acquainted with a Tampa Bay core that is under pressure to deliver, while the Lightning know about the Montreal speed and tenacity that gave them fits last year. Can the Habs put in two consecutive solid efforts?