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Lackluster start gives way to milestone night for Lightning

Following Monday night’s 6-1 win over the Florida Panthers, the Tampa Bay Lightning faced the first of a back to back Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens. Coming into the game, Montreal held a 2 point lead over Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division. However, a Lightning win could mean moving from 6th place to 3rd by the end of the night. The teams have only met one time so far this season, a 3-1 Bolts win October 15th in Montreal.

Early domination for Canadiens

The game did not start out the way Tampa Bay had hoped. The Lightning came out sluggish from the start of the first period. It didn’t take long for Montreal to capitalize on that as Jesperi Kotkaniemi fired home a wrister 2:08 into the game to give the Habs an early lead. It was the first shot of the game for either team.

A troubling amount of turnovers in the first half of the period had the Lightning on their heels and Montreal teeing off on Andrei Vasilevskiy. The lopsided affair continued through the period and the Canadiens extended their lead at the 10:00 mark. Originally, it appeared Max Domi’s shot had rung off the right post and out. However, play was stopped shortly after and the officials reviewed the shot in question. Replay determined that Domi’s shot indeed crossed the goal line and Montreal was awarded a goal. Montreal went on to register the game’s first 18 shots before Tampa Bay had their first.

Bolts start to wake up

The Lightning offense began to show signs of life in the last few minutes of the period. The Bolts ended the period outshooting the Habs 10-2 after Montreal fired the first 18 of the game. Tampa Bay finally broke through with 58 seconds left in the period when Alex Killorn cleaned up a rebound and cashed in past Carey Price. The Lightning trailed by 1 and were being doubled up in shots but went into the locker room with a bit of momentum after 1 period of play.

That momentum carried into the second period for Tampa Bay. The Lightning came back onto the ice with an elevated level of speed and intensity that was nonexistent in the first period. Just 1:34 into the frame, Steven Stamkos tied the game with his 14th goal of the season. The goal was originally shot by Stamkos over the net. However, the rebound off the back wall floated in behind Carey Price. The easy tap in goal was also the 800th career point for the Lightning captain.

Offense continues to overwhelm Montreal

Just over 3 minutes after Stamkos’ goal, history was made again as Mitchell Stephens scored the first goal of his career after putting in his own rebound during a 2 on 1 opportunity.

But the scoring did not stop there. With 8 minutes to go in the period, Alex Killorn picked up his second goal of the night and 13th of the season. The Lightning had completely taken over the game and Montreal head coach Claude Julien called his timeout.

The timeout proved to be the regroup the Habs needed to stop the bleeding. Only 13 second after timeout was called, Ben Chiarot put back a Brendan Gallagher rebound to cut the Lightning lead to 4-3. The Bolts held this one goal lead going into the locker room after 2 periods.

Fast start for Bolts in 3rd period

Tampa Bay started the third period with a bang, wasting no time increasing the lead back to 2. Anthony Cirelli picked up his 8th goal of the season 55 seconds into the period on a backhand rebound following a Victor Hedman shot. The assist by Hedman gave him 4 on the night, a new career high in assists in a game. This total matched a franchise record for assists in a game by a defenseman. Hedman’s 4 points in the game also matched a career high in that category.

The Lightning did their best to limit Montreal scoring chances in the third period, and battled back to close the gap in shots. However, the Canadiens made things interesting late in the third period. With 3:12 to go in the game, Pat Maroon was called for a high sticking penalty. Up a player due to the penalty, Montreal pulled Carey Price to gain a 6 on 4 advantage. The Habs converted on this advantage when Jordan Weal’s attempt at the net deflected in off Tampa Bay defenseman Erik Cernak. Montreal continued offensive zone pressure throughout the game’s final 1:28 with the goalie pulled, but ultimately ran out of time.

Final notes

It was a game that had all the makings of a Montreal blowout through the first 12 minutes. The Canadiens had 18 shots on goal and 2 goals before the Lightning even registered a shot of their own. At one point in the third period before Montreal’s extended time with Price pulled, Tampa Bay had closed the gap in shots to just 5. The game finished with Montreal having a 43-30 final shot advantage.

While the final shot total as well as the final score may tell a different story, the Lightning turned this game in their favor as soon as Alex Killorn got them on the board in the first period. The momentum for the majority of 2 1/3 periods belonged to Tampa Bay. It was not pretty in the beginning, but the team found a way to win a style of game we have seen them lose all too often.

With the win, Tampa Bay moves into 4th place in the Atlantic Division with 42 points. The Florida Panthers now occupy 3rd place with 43 points after a win tonight over the Red Wings.

Next up

The aforementioned Detroit Red Wings come to town tomorrow, 12/29. It will be the second half of a back to back for each team. Game time 7:00PM.

Three stars of the game

  1. Victor Hedman (4 Assists)
  2. Alex Killorn (2 Goals, 1 Assist)
  3. Steven Stamkos (1 Goal, 1 Assist, career point number 800)



For player reactions from the locker room and coach Jon Cooper’s press conference, visit our Youtube channel.

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