The Tampa Bay Lightning could not get out of Ottawa fast enough after getting destroyed by the Senators the previous night. How they left, likely did not matter to the Lightning just as long as it got them out of Ottawa. They left Ottawa, only to fly directly to Montreal to face a hungry Canadiens team, who was looking to get back to the top of the Eastern conference. The Lightning came into the game against Montreal tonight looking to do the exact opposite of what they did the previous night, in which their defense looked non-existent, their offense struggled just getting the puck through the neutral zone, and were unable to stay out of the penalty box. Montreal chose to start their youngster Ben Scrivens in net against the Tampa Bay Lightning’s rested anchor Ben Bishop; in what likely was a strategic move to give a offesnively minded Lightning club a little more to think about, with a goalie they had not previously seen this season and had recently won two straight starts. Montreal’s offense has struggled throughout most of the season but has recently shown recent signs of life, so both clubs who have become recent rivals knew tonight’s matchup may have larger playoff implications down the line, as they will likely be battling one another for playoff positioning the rest of the season.
The first period began with the Tampa Bay Lightning looking to start quicker than they had the previous night as their first two shifts saw them attempting to put pucks on net and test Canadien goalie Ben Scrivens. The early pressure did not seem to be enough for Lightning center Cedric Paquette, as he decided to drop his gloves and challenge Montreal tough guy defenseman Nathan Beaulieu in hopes of sending a message to his club; that it was going to take a team effort tonight if they hoped to leave Montreal with any points. Unfortunately Paquette’s message seemed to get through to J.T. Brown, and did not inspire his intended result as the Canadiens would see a three on two break only a few minutes later in which right-winger Brendan Gallagher put a beautiful shot past Bishop to give Montreal the early 1-0 lead early in the first period. Montreal quickly jumped on a reeling Tampa defense as they began a barrage of shots on Bishop hoping to break the game wide open as Ottawa had done the previous night. The Lightning finally caught a break when a Montreal shot during their barrage caught both posts but stayed out of the net keeping the game 1-0 midway through the first. The Lightning tried to capitalize on their good fortune by implementing some pressure of their own as right-winger Ryan Callahan was able to draw a hooking penalty and the Lightning’s first power play of the night as he drove to the net in attempt to score. The Bolts subsequent power play was relatively uneventful as they struggled to establish puck poessession in the Canadiens zone, and returned to even strength still facing a one goal deficit. Ben Bishop made some key saves as the first period wound down to keep the game 1-0 after a series of unforced turnovers gave the Canadiens dangerous scoring opportunities. Ryan Callahan was able to draw his second power play of the night after he agitated Montreal winger Devante Smith-Pelly into taking a bad roughing penalty with a little over two minutes left in the first period. The Lightning’s second power play of the night was no more successful than their first attempt on the night as the special team units were unable to test Ben Scrivens and the Canadiens in any meaningful way. The first period ended with Montreal holding a 1-0 lead, despite the Lightning having two power plays and out shooting the Canadiens 12-9.
The second period began with the Lightning refusing to let the Canadiens dictate the pace of play as Tampa center Valtteri Filppula received an entry pass from teammate Victor Hedman on the opening shift and buried a blistering shot past Ben Scrivens tying the game at 1-1 only 40 seconds into the 2nd period. Ryan Callahan will not get any official credit on the stat sheets for the goal, but his screen of Ben Scrivens enabled Filppula to fire his shot without Scrivens being able to see it coming. The Lightning would continue establish pressure trying to send several shots at Scrivens looking to take their first lead of the night, but the young goaltender was able to keep the game even despite the onslaught. The Tampa defense continued with their recent struggles to clear pucks out of their zone and Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec took advantage as Tyler Johnson’s was unable to clear puck, and Plekanec put a dribbling back-hander past Ben Bishop giving Montreal the lead again at 2-1. The Lightning and Canadiens would trade penalties from their stars midway through the second as Steven Stamkos would be sent off for holding the stick, and PK Subban would be sent to the box during the Stamkos penalty for interference. Neither club was able to convert their powerplay keeping the score at 2-1 late in the second period. Lightning defenseman Matt Carle would take a bad cross-checking penalty late in the period giving the Canadiens their second power play of the game. The subsequent Montreal power play saw several great shots on net, but fortunately for the Lightning Ben Bishop was able to stand tall and keep the game at a one goal deficit and kill the Canadien power play. It seemed as if the Lightning would be down a goal heading into the last period of play but PK Subban had other ideas as he danced around Tampa center Alex Killorn in the corner of the Tampa zone, broke to the front of the net and fired a shot that would deflect off of Canadien winger Davante Smith-Pelly’s foot past Ben Bishop for the goal with only 8 seconds left on the clock. The Lightning bench looked obviously dejected giving up such a late goal, coming to the realization they would now face a two goal deficit at 3-1, heading into the third period. The Lightning would maintain their shots on goal advantage at 23-21 after two periods.
The third period would begin with the Tampa Bay Lightning knowing they’d need a huge effort from some of their core stars like Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, and Victor Hedman if they were to have any shot at mounting a comeback to a Canadien team that seemed to be smelling blood of their conference rival. Montreal went for the kill early as Tomas Plekanec would get a great pass from Alex Galchenyuk, and the Lightning defenders would look more like spectators than defensemen as Plekanec skated past the net as he put an easy one behind Bishop giving the Canadiens a commanding 4-1 lead. It looked as if the Lightning might pack it in as they did in Ottawa the previous night but Victor Hedman was not ready to call it a night as would put in a nice goal after a scramble in front of Scrivens caused him to be out of position allowing Hedman to cut the lead to 4-2 midway through the third period. The Lightning would turn up the pressure but could not find any success against Ben Scrivens at even strength. Jon Cooper pulled Ben Bishop with about four minutes to play in the game, to maximize the Bolts opportunities to cut into the Canadien lead. The Lightning were able to control the offensive zone and blast away on the Canadien net but despite their best efforts they could not get a shot past Scrivens. Tampa nearly played on a defacto four minute power play to end the game but could not get any closer than 4-2 which would be the final score, and the Canadiens would win their third straight game. The Lightning out shot the Canadiens 39 to 27 for the game, but the Canadiens were never in any danger of losing this one after they took the early lead.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were again overwhelmed tonight from start to finish. The score may have been a little closer than the previous night but the effort was not. There were several Tampa defenders and forwards who just got beat on 50/50 pucks, two of which resulted in Montreal goals; these are the types of plays that cannot happen if Tampa hopes to challenge for the division. The effort the last two games has been below subpar, hopefully the return back home will help right the ship because losing three in a row in a crowded Eastern conference is a recipe to miss the playoffs.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will return home to face the Nashville Predators at on Friday, February 9th at 7:30pm, that game can be seen on SUN Sports locally.
3 Stars of the Game
3rd Star – Victor Hedman – Victor was able to generate all of what little offense the Bolts could muster by assisting Valtteri Filppula on his goal, and then scoring a late goal of his own.
2nd Star – PK Subban- He bothered the Tampa forwards all night and then delivered the death-blow late in the 2nd period with his late assist which really was a shot by Subban giving Montreal a 3-1 lead with only 8 seconds left in the period.
1st Star – Tomas Plekanec – Plekanec was everywhere tonight as he assisted Gallagher on the game’s first goal, and put the game out of reach with two beautiful goals of his own making him the best player on the ice tonight.
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