Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
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For the second game in a row, the Canadiens opened the scoring on Saturday night versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. Unlike the game from two days earlier, subsequent goals came at less of a breakneck pace, and the score was 3-2 in Montreal’s favour after the second period.
With the opening goal from Mike Hoffman followed by tallies from Denis Gurianov and Jesse Ylönen, it was the Habs’ best shooters that had Montreal in a position to win versus a team they’ve often struggled against. Late goals for Tampa Bay have been a feature of that division rivalry for years, and this game was no exception. A power-play goal from one of the Lightning’s top shooters, Steven Stamkos, tied the game, and then two more from Brandon Hagel secured a 5-3 result, but not before the third seed in the division had been properly tested.
It was a much better showing for Montreal’s defence, which had become quite porous on the road trip, no more so than the previous game versus the Florida Panthers in which it surrendered nine goals. It’s safe to say the players were unhappy with how poorly they had defended in that game, and it’s a good sign that they were able to turn things around so quickly.
Tale of the Tape
|43.2% (30th)||Scoring-chances-for %||53.7% (5th)|
|2.77 (27th)||Goals per game||3.45 (7th)|
|3.71 (29th)||Goals against per game||3.04 (13th)|
|16.7% (28th)||PP%||25.3% (3rd)|
|72.3% (30th)||PK%||79.6% (16th)|
There were good signs for several of the injured forwards at practice on Monday as well. All of Kirby Dach, Jake Evans, and Brendan Gallagher were on the ice, so it may not be long before they get back into game action. Dach, especially, has been missed since his last game on February 14. He had not only settled into the centre role of his own line at that time, but was steadily contributing on offence as well, with six points scored in the last seven games he played.
The story was similar for Evans before he had his knee bent sideways following a faceoff. In the opening months of this season he looked nothing like the player who went through the 2021 post-season without being on the ice for a goal against or the player who posted 29 points in 2021-22. However, like many players on the team, he saw a marked improvement in his play following the 11 days off around the All-Star break. With plenty of tough teams on the schedule in the final two weeks, it will be good for the coaching staff to have these two centremen back to help out with the evaluations of some of the wingers on the bubble for next season’s roster.
We will probably see Jonathan Drouin actually playing that position again tonight following his game-long benching on Saturday. You have to give credit to Martin St-Louis for sticking with his plan to hold him out, even if Drouin did dress to insure against another injury on the team. We’ll see how Drouin responds when he draws back in this evening.
He and his Habs teammates have had a couple of days to ruminate on the loss and come up with something better tonight. The Lightning are entering this game following a match in which they were handily outshot by the New Jersey Devils, and not even Andrei Vasilevskiy could hold the 2-0 lead his team held in the second period. New Jersey scored five unanswered goals the rest of the way, getting a bit of revenge for the back-to-back wins the Lightning had against them earlier in the week.
Now Tampa Bay has its own defensive play to clean up, so we may not see as many of the open one-timers Montreal capitalized on last game. Offence may have to come more from the defencemen leading the rushes as it often has lately, so expect Mike Matheson and company to be heavily involved in the transition play as the Canadiens try to salvage one win from this four-game season series.