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The Canadiens lost a frustrating battle to the Lightning on Monday night in Tampa Bay and now find themselves tied with the Bolts for first place in the Atlantic Division. For the second straight game, one of Montreal’s trade deadline additions was out for the game early as Bryan Flynn did not return after being high-stacked in the face by Brendan Morrow just over two minutes into the first period. Once again, the power play sputtered as they generated only one good chance in the ensuing four minute man advantage. Yet again, the Habs started slowly and it cost them as two unfortunatel plays- a deflection by Andrei Markov on a Valtteri Filppula shot and a breakaway pass from Max Pacioretty to Steven Stamkos led to two Lightning goals.

Brandon Prust fought Mike Angelidis just after the mid-point of the first in a fruitless attempt to spark his teammates and it looked like it was going to be another night of teeth-grinding frustration as Tampa seemed poised to dominate after the opening frame.

Victor Hedman scored just 2:45 into the second period and it seemed like it was game over for the Habs. However, Les Canadiens showed a lot of guts and fight in the second. Fired up by Prust’s check on Ben Bishop—I won’t call it running the goalie because he actually held up and didn’t smash Bishop as hard as he could have—followed by Brendan Gallagher’s spirited bout with Vladislav Namestnikov, the Habs attacked relentlessly. Finally, Tomas Plekanec broke Bishop’s shutout streak against Montreal with a rare, road power play goal at 11:10. The Canadiens buzzed around the Tampa Bay net for the rest of the period but couldn’t solve Bishop for a second time before the buzzer sounded.

When Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau finally got back on the score-sheet, notching his seventh just 34 seconds into the third period, it seemed like Montreal was going to be able to make a comeback. However, the Prust vs Angelidis rematch was uneventful and Tampa was lucky to avoid an instigator penalty on a night when Montreal’s power play might have made a difference . Unfortunately, the scoring slump continued and the Montreal shooters were unable to score on Bishop again despite numerous good scoring chances – including a P.K. Subban blast that beat the Tampa goaltender but rang off the post. Lars Eller’s holding penalty at 17:38 (which negated a fine defensive effort on his part) sealed the Canadiens ‘fate. They were unable to sustain possession and pressure in the Tampa Bay zone with Price pulled for the extra attacker while Stamkos added an empty net, power play goal at 18:55 to ensure the Lightning win.

HW 3 Stars of the Night

1st Star: Tomas Plekanec: Plekanec drove what little offence the Habs were able to produce scoring one (his 20th of the season) and assisting on Parenteau’s goal. He also played his customary strong defensive game.

Stats: 1 goal, 1 assist, even rating, 3 shots, 2 hits, 14/29 faceoffs, 21:29 TOI

2nd Star: Brandon Prust: Prust spent a lot of time in the penalty box in this game as he seemed to be trying to inspire his teammates to win. His hit on Bishop was a key point in the game for Montreal which had more jump after that.

Stats: 0 points, 12 PIMS, 1 hit, 1 block, 7:50 TOI

3rd Star: P-A Parenteau: He finally scored and it was an important goal that spurred the Canadiens to push for a comeback. More importantly, he scored because he hustled and went to the front of the net. Let’s hope that this gives Parenteau some much needed confidence and he goes on a scoring streak.

Stats: 1 goal, even rating, 3 shots, 16:02 TOI

Honourable Mentions:
Carey Price: Aside from the Lightning’s first two goals– which were a direct result of his teammates’ play – he had a strong game.

Brendan Gallagher: He gave a good account of himself against a significantly larger opponent in only his 3rd regular season fight and was a threat to score and his usual agitating self.