The Tampa Bay Lightning were in Montreal Monday night to take on the Habs. Coach Bob Gainey decided to go with the hot hand, starting goaltender Christobal Huet in the nets, while newly acquired David Aebischer waits for his first chance to start a game for Montreal. The Habs have held the advantage in head-to-head games this season, winning all 3 matches, with a 13-7 goals for and against margin. This match was a battle for 7th place overall in the conference, with the Habs one point ahead of Tampa Bay.
The game started and Tampa quickly controlled the flow of the game. Scoring opportunities were relatively low in the first period, with each team only measuring a 3-4 good chances to score. The Lightning goale Sean Burke played well, doing a good job with controlling rebounds and standing tall in the net. The second period was a little more active for both teams. The visitors scored the first goal at 11:52, partially due to Mathieu Dandenault being caught too far up ice. The goal was based on a nice two-on-one break between two Vinnys, with Prospal setting up Lecavalier for the marker. Nearly one minute later, a seemingly innocent play lead to a great deal of pushing and shoving between both teams on the ice. Steve Begin followed the puck to the net, as it ended up tangled in the outside netting. He apparently skated too close to Burke for Sean’s liking, who then took a shot at Begin. Steve responded in kind, and soon all players on the ice were either pushing at the next closest opponent or waltzing around waiting for the the officials to break things up. The two “killer B’s”, Begin & Burke were assessed roughing penalties, and both teams seemed to have a little spark, as the overall play seemed to pick up. Tampa scored a huge short handed goal with only 17 seconds left in the 2nd period. Unfortunately, it appeared to be due to a miscommunication between Huet and his defencemen, as the dmen appeared to expect Huet to smother the puck, but instead the goalie cleared the puck to the corner. That lead to Fredrik Modin corraling the puck, and a quick high slot pass to Martin St. Louis, who one-timed it high, glancing off Huet’s shoulder and into the net. In the third period, the Habs responded well out shooting the Bolts 19-8, and managed a power play tally at 17:38 in the game. That goal was a good effort by Mike Ribeiro, who batted the puck out of the air past a helpless Burke, for the Habs only power play marker of the game. A late period rally was squashed by a bad tripping penalty by rookie Alex Perezhogin at 18:52, and the Canadiens were unable to tie the game.
Overall, the Habs game was a little flat compared to recent games. They lost ground on Tampa, as they fell back to 8th place in the playoff standings. They are one point less than the Lightning and three more than Atlanta but with one game in hand on both teams. Huet rode a span of around 163 shutout minutes into the middle of the game, and his outstanding play cannot be understated for the Habs. The loss of Andrei Markov, who is currently listed as day to day with back spasms, was felt but cannot be used as an excuse for the team’s play. The Canadiens have a few players who are uncertain to play the next game on Thursday against Carolina. Along with Markov, Mike Ribeiro is nursing a rib injury, and did not attend the Tuesday practice. Mark Streit or newly acquired Todd Simpson are possible lineup replacments for Markov.
Official Three Star Selections: 1. Sean Burke, 2. Craig Rivet, 3. Vincent Lecavalier