HabsWorld.net -- 

The Habs were hoping to carry some momentum from their comeback against the Caps into Saturday as they took on Tampa Bay.  That wasn’t the case as the Lightning got stronger as the game went on and earned the 4-1 win.

While Paul Byron had skated recently and the thought was that he’d be ready to suit up, the team instead ruled him out for this game as well Monday and Tuesday’s contests to give him more time to rest up.  As a result, there weren’t any lineup changes for the Canadiens from their come from behind win against Washington.

The Canadiens picked up where they left off on Thursday.  After scoring in the last minute that game, Max Domi scored in the first minute of this one, intercepting a pass from Mikhail Sergachev and sniping one past Andrei Vasilevskiy.  He had another chance moments later but the Jonathan Drouin pass put him in too tight.

Shortly after the goal, Yanni Gourde took an interference penalty.  Montreal’s struggling power play didn’t do too much but just after it expired, Tomas Tatar had a glorious chance in the slot but couldn’t beat Vasilevskiy.  A few minutes later, Carey Price made a nice stop on Slater Koekkoek and Jesperi Kotkaniemi went the other way.  He set up Joel Armia who had a couple of good shots but couldn’t beat the Tampa netminder.

With just over eight minutes left, Nicolas Deslauriers took a boarding penalty and this was the turning point of the period.  Although the Habs technically killed it off, Steven Stamkos one-timed one past Price just as the penalty expired to tie the game.

They kept on coming and Montreal’s defensive zone awareness was completely non-existent as they couldn’t even make simple passes for several consecutive shifts.  This came back to haunt them as Charles Hudon had a dreadful giveaway in his own that eventually sprung J.T. Miller on a breakaway who sniped one past Price to give Tampa the lead.

The Lightning kept on coming, forcing Price to make several key stops to keep the deficit at one.  He was able to hold the fort, sending Montreal to the room down one but the way the second half of the period went, it could have been a whole lot worse.  Shots on goal in the period were 18-12 for Tampa Bay.

Montreal used the intermission to wake up and came out for the second a much more focused team.  Just past the five-minute mark, Jesperi Kotkaniemi had a flip pass that Joel Armia turned into a breakaway but Vasilevskiy made the stop.

A couple of minutes later, the Canadiens went back to the power play.  Their puck movement was a lot better compared to their first one but they still didn’t generate much in the way of shots on goal.  As the penalty was expiring, Tyler Johnson (who took the penalty) was sprung on a breakaway but Price made the stop.

The play was fairly even for a few minutes after that but the Habs then picked things up again.  Tomas Tatar (who was snakebit all night) was stopped on a two-on-one.  Three minutes later, Domi set up Noah Juulsen in the slot but Vasilevskiy was once again up to the task.

The Canadiens then got one more crack with the man advantage late in the frame.  This time, they did a better job of getting pucks through and had a couple of decent opportunities but once again, they weren’t able to put one home and the two sides went back to the dressing rooms with the score still at 2-1.  Shots on goal were a lot different than the first with Montreal holding a 17-7 advantage.

Unfortunately for the Canadiens, they weren’t able to get much going in the final frame.  Stamkos picked up his second of the night in the opening minute and then the next several minutes ticked away without much fanfare; Montreal had a good penalty kill and then a 2-on-1 with Drouin and Kotkaniemi was stopped shortly after that.

Tampa Bay was able to get the clinching goal with just over four minutes left.  Noah Juulsen (who had a rough night) broke a stick shortly after Montreal killed off another penalty and the Canadiens were hemmed in their own end.  The puck eventually got to Brayden Point who snuck behind Juulsen and tapped one past Price.  The Habs got a late power play but did nothing with it and that was all she wrote.

Vasilevskiy had himself a very strong outing, making 34 stops in the victory.  Price allowed four goals on 36 shots overall but he certainly wasn’t the cause of the loss.  Both teams technically didn’t score on the power play with Tampa going 0/3 (but scoring just as one ended) and the Habs 0/4.

HW Habs 3 Stars

1st Star: Max Domi – He had Montreal’s lone goal and was very dangerous early on.  He was quieter as the game progressed but the same could be said for a lot of players.  Domi also had a rare strong night at the faceoff dot.

Stats: 1 goal, even rating, 2 shots, 1 hit, 12/22 faceoffs, 17:22 TOI

2nd Star: Brendan Gallagher – Is it fair to just say ‘same old, same old’ at this point?  He was his usual energetic self, a catalyst offensively, and was noticeable throughout the game.

Stats: 0 points, even rating, 3 shots (9 attempts), 2 hits, 3 giveaways, 3 takeaways, 1 block, 17:20 TOi

3rd Star: Jordie Benn – Most nights, it’s a scary sight to see the puck on his stick.  This wasn’t one of those nights.  He was poised with the puck and looked to shoot a lot more often than usual while faring relatively well in his own end as well.

Stats: 0 points, even rating, 1 shot (7 attempts), 3 hits, 2 blocks, 18:20 TOI

Honourable Mention: Tomas Tatar – Yes, he didn’t have much luck with the puck on his stick.  However, he was in the right spots to get the chances and played with some energy as his line was Montreal’s best.  There are going to be nights where he doesn’t hit the scoresheet – it’s better when they’re games like this one over ones where he’s quiet.

Stats: 0 points, even rating, 2 PIMS, 3 shots (5 attempts), 16:54 TOI