Dirty Play Downs Tyler Johnson as Bolts Get Thumped 5-2 in Finale
The playoff opponent set: the Detroit Red Wings; but the Tampa Bay Lightning still had one regular season opponent to face before they could start their quest to defend their Eastern Conference title. The Montreal Canadiens were in a similar place as the Lightning heading into tonight with nothing really significant to play for having been eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago. The question coming into tonight would be which team would bring enough focus and energy into a game that was essentially a graduated preseason game to get the win. The biggest keys for the Tampa Bay Lightning entering the Bell Centere were simple: keep integrating the newly returned Jonathan Drouin into the offense and try not to add to the lengthy injury list heading into the post-season.
The 1st period started with the Montreal Canadiens looking as the only team on the ice who cared about whether they won or loss the game. Montreal would pepper Tampa goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy with several close range shots during the first few minutes of the game. Vasilevskiy would make some early saves but a little after the fifteen minute mark of the 1st period the goaltender would get caught misplaying the puck behind his own net allowing Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher to steal it and hit Alex Galchenyuk with a pass for an easy empty net goal giving the Canadiens an early 1-0 lead in the 1st period. Canadiens goaltender Mike Condon did not see many shots through most of the first half of the 1st period as the Lightning were unable to establish any consistent pressure in the Montreal zone. The Lightning would finally begin to pepper the Canadien’s goalie with some shots late in the 1st period after Brian Boyle and Valterri Filppula would get back to back scoring chances but were unable to beat the Montreal netminder. The game would take a disastrous late in the 1st period as Mike Condon would stop the puck on a routine shot but Canadiens defenseman Greg Pateryn would deliver a terrible cheap shot to Lightning center Tyler Johnson after the whistle, sending Johnson’s head and neck crashing into the boards. The center would remain down on the ice for a few minutes and Pateryn would get sent off for boarding along with receiving a game misconduct for his dirty play but the damage to Johnson was done, as he was taken directly to the locker room after he was helped to his feet. Johnson would not return to the game. The Canadiens would take advantage of the four on four play that resulted from Ondrej Palat sticking up for his teammate after the cheap hit as Canadien Tomas Plekanec would get a beautiful tick-tack-toe pass from Lars Eller and bury the puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy giving Montreal a 2-0 lead late in the 1st period. The 1st period would end with the Canadiens leading by two goals as well as holding the 11-9 shots on goal advantage.
The 2nd period would continue the nightmare for the Tampa Bay Lightning, as Montreal’s Max Pacioretty would score only 27 seconds into the period after he would use Lightning defenseman John Garrison to screen Vasilevskiy who never saw the shot giving Montreal a commanding 3-0 lead. Montreal would continue to pour it on the undermanned Bolts as Alex Galchenyuk would score his second goal of the game and his 30th on the year on a power play giving the Canadiens a 4-0 lead, all set up by a Valtteri Filppula tripping penalty. The Lightning finally had enough of the Canadiens late hits as Tampa center Vladislav Namestnikov took out his objections on Montreal center Paul Byron’s face as both players would were sent, to the penalty box for fighting midway through the 2nd period. The Lightning would get a couple of power play chances throughout the 2nd period, but they would continue to take penalties with the man advantage, ending three consecutive power plays with penalties of their own. The 2nd period would come to an end with the Canadiens holding a commanding 4-0 lead while also maintaining their shots on goal advantage at 21 to 13.
The 3rd period began with Montreal Canadiens continuing to hit Tampa players after the whistle or driving them over the boards with tough checks. The Lightning appeared to score their first goal of the game early in the 3rd period as Tampa forward Michael Blunden drove a puck past Mike Condon as he got checked from behind. However, the Montreal bench would challenge the goal on the basis of Blunden interfering with Condon before the puck went into the net. The replay officials would agree with the Montreal challenge despite numerous angles showing Blunden scoring a legal goal prior to contact with the Canadiens goalie; the goal would be disallowed keeping the game at 4-0 early in the 3rd period. Ondrej Palat would finally break through with a Tampa goal that would count, as he beat Mike Condon with a blistering wrist shot cutting the deficit to three goals at 4-1 a quarter way through the 3rd period. Young Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin would make the game interesting late as he would score late in the 3rd period for his first back to back scoring games in his NHL career to cut the game to 4-2. The Lightning would not get any closer than two goals as Max Paciorrety would cherry pick his 30th regular season goal on an empty net giving Montreal the 5-2 victory. The Canadiens would also outshoot the Lightning 29-22 for the night.
The Lightning would finish the season at 46-31-5, with 97 points. The Canadiens would finish the season 38-38-6, with 80 points on the year.
The Lightning will open their 1st round playoff series next week against the Detroit Red Wings on either Wednesday or Thursday once the NHL releases the playoff schedule.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME
- Alex Galchenyuk– He scored the game winner and added another for good measure to get his 30th of the year.
- Max Pacioretty– He scored and got an assist.
- Ondrej Palat– He got the first Lightning goal of the night in a game out of reach despite Bluden scoring a legal goal earlier that was disallowed. He also got an assist on Jonathan Drouin’s goal.
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