Two titans from the Eastern Conference clashed tonight as the Tampa Bay Lightning took on the Montreal Canadiens. The Lightning, sitting just a point behind Montreal, aimed for a big-time win which would put them at first in the Atlantic Division. The Canadiens, fresh off a win last night in New York, hope to fend off the challenger and remain undefeated in regulation. Here’s how it would unfold.
Puck dropped and we were underway with Tampa Bay’s seventh game of the season. Montreal would get a golden opportunity first, as Vladislav Namestnikov would get sent to the sin bin just 2:23 into the game. Tampa Bay killed the penalty in impressive fashion as they have all year, and the contest remained scoreless. Montreal would then hold Tampa Bay without a shot until 7:46 left in the period, where Alex Killorn would toss a wobbly puck toward Carey Price, who tossed it out of play. There would then be a scare as Nikita Kucherov slipped on the ice and fell shoulder-first into the boards. He would trudge to the bench to be looked at by Tampa Bay’s medical staff. Kucherov would then skate one more shift before the period ended. The most exciting moment up to this point game Lightning goalie Ben Bishop coming very far out of the crease to breakup a potential break way for Montreal. During this play, he would not only make the save, but toss the puck to rookie Brayden Point, who nearly scored on his opportunity. Montreal carried most of the play here, making Tampa Bay play a much slower game. The shots would end 8-4 in favor of the Canadiens.
The second period would commence, and still no Kucherov. Unfortunately for the Lightning, he would not return for the rest of the game. No word was given on his injury as of this writing, but one can hope it is nothing serious. Tampa Bay would fare better in the second, dictating more of the play and overtaking Montreal in shots. Some rough stuff would ensue as Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette and Montreal’s Nathan Beaulieu would briefly drop the gloves and exchange pleasantries. The officials would quickly pounce on the two and send both to the penalty box at 2:56.
Tampa Bay’s momentum would take a hit, as Tyler Johnson would try to play the puck from under a Montreal forward and be whistled for tripping at 5:32. Tampa Bay would continue to be sound in the penalty killing department, smothering Montreal’s power play chances and killing off the penalty soundly. Time would continue to tick away while the score was a 0-0 stalemate, that is until Harvard graduate Alex Killorn would net his team-leading sixth goal of the season at 16:08 in the third. The tally was a superb deflection from a Victor Hedman pass disguised as a slap shot. Hedman and Anton Stralman would pick up the two assists. The Lighting would get a shortened power play at the end of the second which would transfer to the third. They went to the locker room leading 1-0.
The third would get underway with 1:44 left on the Lightning power play. Tampa Bay would get some good looks, even playing with a brief 12-second 5-on-3 man-advantage due to a delay of game on Montreal’s Andrei Markov at 1:26 into the period. However, they would not cash in largely in part by the superb goaltending of Carey Price during the power play. Play would then teeter totter back an forth, as both teams made good cases to take the lead in the third, trading opportunities, shots, and a few shoves.
Nikita Nesterov would then stick up for his goaltender and, according to the officials, took it a bit too far. They would call him for roughing 4:58 into the third. The power play would give the Canadiens new life as a Alex Galchenyuk one-timer beat Bishop, tying the game 1-1 with 14:48 left in regulation. Montreal then smelled blood as they pounced on the Lightning. They would jump on Tampa Bay’s mistakes and keep play in the visiting team’s zone for extended periods. Their efforts would eventually bear fruit, as Montreal forward Max Pacioretty would score on a screened Bishop and make the game 2-1 for the Habs at the 10:23 mark.
Looking for a much-needed spark, Tampa Bay began to find ways to keep the puck in Montreal’s zone. They would pepper Price with shots in the hope that something would get through. Regrettably for them, none of them would, and the Canadiens would eventually provide the dagger with an empty netter with under a minute left in the game. The Lightning would fall to 5-2-0, and the Canadiens improved to 7-0-1, remaining undefeated in regulation time. The next stop for the Lightning is the New Jersey Devils (3-2-1) on Saturday. Puck drops at 7 pm.
MY THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1st Star: Carey Price, 30 saves
2nd Star: Max Pacioretty, game winning goal
3rd Star: Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay team-leading 6th goal (tied for the NHL lead)