Montreal Canadiens @ Tampa Bay Lightning
How to watch
Start time: 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST
In Canada: CITY-TV, Sportsnet East (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the US: NHL Network
In the Lightning region: SUN
Elsewhere: NHL.tv / Rogers NHL Live
For a few minutes on Thursday night, it looked like the Canadiens, despite a shaky start, were in a decent position to secure at least a point for the seventh consecutive game. The Habs had spent most of the second period clawing their way back into the match, and Tomas Tatar’s equalizer at 5:26 of the third period was nothing less than the team deserved at that point.
Then, as quickly as that hope had emerged in the hearts of the Canadiens faithful, it was gone. Brian Boyle’s first as a Predator, followed two-and-a-half minutes later by Viktor Arvidsson’s backdoor tally off a Jordie Benn turnover, was all she wrote for the Canadiens’ point streak, and perhaps again illustrated the difference between the Tricolore and the elite echelon of the NHL.
There’s no rest for the weary though, as the Habs must now regroup as they head to the home of the NHL’s best team.
Tale of the Tape
|54.2% (3rd)||Corsi-for pct.||51.8% (8th)|
|3.00 (14th)||Goals per game||3.88 (1st)|
|2.89 (11th)||Goals against per game||2.72 (5th)|
|13.3% (30th)||PP%||29.8% (1st)|
|79.7% (20th)||PK%||84.4% (3rd)|
There’s not much that needs to be said about the Tampa Bay Lightning that hasn’t already been said. With 90 points, the gap between the Bolts and the other three division leaders is on par with the gap between those teams and the last-place Ottawa Senators. It’s not like the Lightning are riding the coattails of a hot start either, as they’ve gone 7-1-2 in their last 10.
That said, there may be a glimmer of hope for the Canadiens and the rest of the league, given that Tampa Bay has lost six games of 18 in the new year versus the nine defeats in 40 games that they suffered in the 2018 portion of the season.
If the Bolts are coming back to Earth, they’re not doing it without a fight. In response to a stretch where they lost three times in five games, Tampa Bay simply went out and reeled off four straight wins, with each game featuring at least five goals for the men in blue and white. This run was extended on Thursday night with a comprehensive 6-0 demolition of the Dallas Stars, featuring four first-period goals by four different players.
On paper, this game shouldn’t be a contest. Alas, the game must yet still be played, and the Habs will need to take heart in their previous clash with the Lightning. Despite playing the night before against the Florida Panthers and sending Antti Niemi out between the pipes, the Canadiens narrowly lost a thrilling 6-5 decision that saw the team take — and lose — three leads. If a repeat performance is to be had, but with a slightly better outcome, the Canadiens will have to draw on everything that they did well in that game, as well as be acutely aware of the mistakes that turned a potential narrow victory into a narrow defeat on Thursday.