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Lightning take shootout in Montreal, sweep three-game road trip

Having taken the first two games of a three-game road trip, the Tampa Bay Lightning returned to the scene of an epic goaltending duel from earlier this season. On January 4, the Lightning and Montreal Canadiens went to a shootout at the Bell Centre following a spectacular goaltending matchup between Andrei Vasilevsky and Carey Price. The Canadiens prevailed that night by a 2-1 score.

Almost two months later, the Lightning returned to the scene of the crime, looking to pick up two valuable points and sweep a three-game road trip. Vasilevskiy got the start in net, but this time he was going against Price’s backup, Antti Niemi, due to Price being out with a concussion. Much like that first visit to Montreal, this game went to a shootout. However, the result worked out in the Lightning’s favor this time around.

Vasilevskiy made 36 saves while Brayden Point scored a goal in regulation and the lone goal in the shootout, pushing the Lightning (42-17-3, 87 points) past the Canadiens (23-29-9, 55 points) 4-3. The victory marked just the second win for the Bolts in their last six visits to the Bell Centre. Nikita Kucherov and Ryan Callahan each chipped in power play goals, while Niemi finished the night with 29 saves for the Habs. The win pushed the Lightning back into first place in the NHL standings by one point over the idle Vegas Golden Knights. Due to Toronto’s 4-3 regulation win over Boston, the Bolts now hold a four-point edge on the second-place Maple Leafs and a five-point advantage for the Bruins.

The Lightning overcame a slow start thanks to Vasilevskiy and Point.

Early on, Vasilevskiy was forced to be on his toes, making a few quality saves off of odd-man rushes. Unfortunately for the Lightning, that has been a trend that has reared its head far too many times this season. Montreal controlled play over the opening 10 minutes. They took a 1-0 lead when Byron Froese redirected a shot from Jordie Benn past Vasilevskiy. Froese, who spent part of last season with the Lightning, earned his second goal of the season at 8:52.

However, Point tied the game for the Lightning at the 12:07 mark. Receiving a pass from Alex Killorn in the neutral zone, he used his patented speed and took off. Weaving his way through Montreal defenders, he got help in the form of Mikhail Sergachev. Sergachev drove the net and took two Habs players with him. Point zipped a shot past Niemi for his 25th goal and fifth in the last four games.

After that, the Lightning got the better of the scoring chances for the remainder of the period as the game got chippy.

It’s rare to see Steven Stamkos drop the gloves. It’s even more rare when both he and Victor Hedman do it in the same period.

Karl Alzner clipped Kucherov with a knee-on-knee hit in the neutral zone, prompting Stamkos to drop the gloves with Alzner. Kucherov wasn’t injured, but Stamkos was handed a two-minute instigator penalty and a 10-minute misconduct to go along with fighting majors for each player, giving Montreal a power play. The Canadiens came up empty, but the nastiness picked up.

Brendan Gallagher clipped Hedman up high away from the play, drawing the ire of the towering Lightning defenseman. With under a minute to go, Gallagher and Hedman dropped the mitts and wrestled around, with each player drawing roughing minors.

Early in the second period, both teams traded goals to keep the game knotted up.

The Lightning received back-to-back power plays starting just under five minutes into the period. After coming up short on the first opportunity despite several quality looks, Tampa Bay cashed in on the second chance. Kucherov blasted a one-timer from the right circle for his 33rd goal, extending his point streak to nine games. Unfortunately for the Lightning, that lead was short-lived, with Montreal’s Joe Morrow tying the game 2-2 just 1:18 after Kucherov’s goal. Morrow jumped into the play late, taking a pass from Charles Hudon and firing a shot past Vasilevskiy.

Despite a few more solid chances, the Lightning’s puck management began to suffer for the rest of the period and they began to lapse defensively. They surrendered more odd-man rushes, including a pair of late breakaways. Max Pacioretty fired the puck wide on one, while Paul Byron was denied by Vasilevskiy on the other. In addition, Sergachev committed a horrendous turnover in his own zone, only to get bailed out by Vasilevskiy.

However, Pacioretty gave Montreal a 3-2 lead on the power play with 3:31 left on the clock. While controlling the puck in the Lightning’s zone, the Canadiens caught a break when Anton Stralman’s stick broke. Stamkos handed him his twig, but it still left the Lightning essentially two-men short. A Geoff Petry shot was stopped by Vasilevskiy, but the rebound bounced to a wide-open Pacioretty in the slot. He made no mistake in burying it in the back of the net for his 17th goal of the season.

Immediately after the puck dropped to start the third period, Tampa Bay made Montreal pay for a lack of discipline.

Just seven seconds in, Froese was whistled for cross-checking, putting the Bolts on the power play. It took only 14 seconds for it to become a 5-on-3, as Montreal’s Phillip Danault slashed Sergachev. Kucherov proceeded to rip a shot off the crossbar and the side of the net, and it looked like the Bolts would come up empty on an important power play. Fortunately for the Lightning, Kucherov and Callahan had other ideas. Kucherov took control of the puck and unleashed a shot towards the net with Callahan screening Niemi. The puck glanced off Callahan and in, giving him his fourth goal of the season and tying the game 3-3 at 2:11. The goal was originally awarded to Kucherov but was later changed to Callahan.

A pair of Montreal power plays saw the Habs generate a few quality chances, including a fantastic glove save by Vasilevskiy on Pacioretty. But if you’re a Montreal fan, you probably weren’t pleased by the fact the Bolts created a trio of excellent shorthanded chances. Point had two breakaways, one in which he lost control of the puck, and the other in which his shot was turned aside by Niemi. Immediately after that, Stamkos took a pass from Point and was open in front of the crease, only to see Niemi knock the puck away.

Although both teams saw their share of decent looks for the rest of the third period, neither team was able to break the tie and this game went to overtime with the shots 33-31 in Tampa Bay’s favor.

As usual, 3-on-3 overtime delivered the excitement, but the Bolts couldn’t take advantage of a tremendous opportunity.

Early in overtime, Pacioretty found himself on yet another breakaway, but he was unable to get Vasilevskiy to bite on a move. As he ran out of real estate, he was unable to get a shot off. Artturi Lehkonen nearly ended it off a setup from Victor Mete, only to get robbed by an arm save from Vasilevskiy. At the 2:32 mark of overtime, Tampa Bay went to the power play after Morrow clipped Tyler Johnson with a high stick. Despite a trio of chances from Stamkos, Kucherov, and Point, the Lightning couldn’t convert and this game went to a shootout.

Remember that behind-the-back glove save Vasilevskiy made on Anze Kopitar a couple of weeks ago? Guess what? He did it again.

Through two rounds and four shooters, Point was the only player to find the back of the net in the shootout. With the game hanging in the balance, Hudon took his shot against Vasilevskiy looking to extend the skills competition to a fourth round. However, Vasilevskiy had other ideas:

With Hudon speeding towards the net, Vasilevskiy whipped his glove hand behind him. After he made the save, he was mobbed by his teammates as they celebrated their win. The Lightning return home on Monday night when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:30 pm.

Game Notes

-This was the final game for the Lightning in a stretch where they played 18 out of 25 on the road. Their record in those games was 15-9-1.

-After sweeping this three-game road trip, the Bolts will play 10 of their next 11 games at home.

-Kucherov has six goals and nine assists during his nine-game point streak. He also has point streaks of 10 and 11 games this season.

-Point has five goals and three assists during his current seven-game point streak.

-The Lightning’s power play has scored in five of their last six games. They have scored 12 power play goals in their last 14 games.

-Tampa Bay has scored at least three goals in nine straight games.

Our Three Stars of the Game

1st Star: Brayden Point – Scored one goal in regulation and the winner in the shootout.

2nd Star: Nikita Kucherov – Tallied a power play goal and a power play assist.

3rd Star: Andrei Vasilevskiy – Finished with 36 saves.

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