The Montreal Canadiens continued their hunt for the final wild-card spot in their game against the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night. The Canadiens put 45 shots on goal at the Bell Centre to defeat their opponents by a score of 4-2.
Lightning struck fast for the visitors and gave them what could have been a momentum-stealing goal just 2:28 into the game, but the Canadiens brought the game back to square one 10 minutes later. Steven Stamkos got credit for the early goal that got by Carey Price, since his backhand from behind the goal line went off the leg of Max Domi in the crease and then into the net, giving the Tampa Bay captain his 43rd of the season.
Stamkos unwillingly gave Nate Thompson the opportunity to put his first goal as a member of the Canadiens behind Tampa netminder Eddie Pasquale, who made 41 saves in Tampa’s loss. Thompson had the puck in the slot and waited for more traffic to pile up, and ultimately it was Stamkos who completely took away Pasquale’s view in an attempt to block the shot. The screen allowed the puck to find the back of the net for Thompson’s fifth of the year.
The Canadiens had two breakaway opportunities after the goal to take their first lead of the night, but both times Pasquale was there to make the save. The first was with his glove on a snipe from Brendan Gallagher and the second was a shot in the chest from Paul Byron, who was sprung on a breakaway by a great pass from Jordie Benn.
Pasquale continued his stellar goaltending to open the second period as he followed a cross-slot pass and stopped the ensuing one-timer, corralling the rebound before Jonathan Drouin could put it in the open net.
The Lightning had another early goal in the second period to put them back ahead by one, this time due to Cedric Paquette deflecting Adam Erne’s shot by Price less than five minutes in.
The Canadiens continued to send a barrage of shots at Pasquale and eventually another one found the back of the net a little over three minutes after Tampa reclaimed the lead. Joel Armia netted his 13th of the season from behind the net, as his shot bounced off the Lightning goaltender and behind the goal line to make it a 2-2 game. By the end of the second period, the Canadiens had a 35-18 advantage over the Lightning in shots on goal.
With 14 minutes left in the game, it was Price’s turn to impress the crowd with a series of big saves, keeping the must-win game for the Canadiens tied at two, and allowing Artturi Lehkonen to get the go-ahead goal for Montreal with 12 minutes remaining. Victor Mete’s shot went off the knee of a Tampa forward and headed to the front of the net, where Lehkonen knocked it down out of mid-air and then tapped it into the net to make it 3-2 Montreal.
Domi put the puck in the correct net just two minutes after Lehkonen’s tally to put the game out of reach for the Lightning, netting the insurance goal for Montreal on a breakaway by sending the puck low glove-side for his 28th of the season.
The Lightning pulled Pasquale in favour of the extra attacker with three minutes remaining, but the Canadiens held on to defeat Tampa Bay 4-2.
Montreal was also done a favour by the Boston Bruins, who swiped two points of the table of the Columbus Blue Jackets to leave them at 94 points. The Toronto Maple Leafs weren’t so kind as they allowed the Carolina Hurricanes to take a 4-1 win, leaping into the first wild-card spot.
The next must-win game takes place on Thursday night. After knocking off the Atlantic Division’s best team, they now need to do the same to the Metropolitan Division-leading Washington Capitals.