It was a night of milestones for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they beat the visiting Montreal Canadiens, 4-1, in the last game of the calendar year.
Goaltender Cedrick Desjardins made 27 saves after allowing an early goal to get a victory in his NHL debut, and Steven Stamkos was in on all four goals with two goals and two assists.
Things didn’t start off too well for Desjardins and the Bolts. Max Pacioretty’s centering feed from the left wing corner hit defenseman Brett Clark’s skate as he tangled with Brian Gionta in the crease and went into the net after just 58 seconds of play to give Montreal the early lead.
The score remained that way until the 2:48 mark of the second period. With Tampa Bay on a power play for the first of two Canadiens bench minors for too many men on the ice, Martin St. Louis held the puck at the bottom edge of the right wing circle and noticed that Vincent Lecavalier had a decent screen set up on Habs’ stating netminder Carey Price. St. Louis snapped a wrist shot that sailed past Price for his 16th goal of the year to knot the score at 1-1.
Just past the midway point of the middle frame, defenseman Pavel Kubina notched his second goal of the season to give the Lightning a lead that they would not relinquish. It was the 67th goal scored by Kubina in a Bolts’ uniform, moving him past former Tampa rear guard Dan Boyle for sole possession of the all-time lead for goals scored by a Lightning defender.
Stamkos picked up assists on both of the first two goals, but had no shots through the first 40 minutes. That would change in a big way in the final period as he took matters into his own hands.
Just 1:46 into the period, “Stammer” was hooked while on a breakaway by another former-Bolts’ defender, original draft pick Roman Hamrlik. The 20-year-old superstar was awarded a penalty shot, and he made the highlight reels in picking up the goal. Stamkos skated in and as he made a move to the forehand, Price bit hard and slid across to cover the post. Stamkos then slowed up and whirled around in a spin-o-rama motion, flipping a backhander high past the startled goalie.
It was a beautiful goal to reach the 30-goal mark, but the goal-scoring wunderkind wasn’t done yet.
Less than three minutes later, Tampa Bay was buzzing around the Montreal cage. In the confusion, the puck went behind the net. Stamkos pounced on it and realized that Price had lost sight of the disc and was hugging the near post, so he took it around the far side and tucked it home with a nice wraparound goal.
His second goal of the game and 31st of the season leaves him just one behind Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the NHL lead.
Habs’ head coach lifted Price after the fourth Tampa Bay goal, bringing Alex Auld in to finish out the game.
Desjardins was especially good in the third as he stopped all 15 Canadiens’ shots.
With the win, the Lightning once again have taken over the top spot in the Southeast Division. They are tied with the Washington Capitals with 49 points, but hold a game in hand over the Caps.
Next up are the New York Rangers in the last game of this current three-game home stand, New Years Day at 7:30 PM.
Bolts Bits: By virtue of outshooting the Lightning 15-9 in the third, the Canadiens outshot Tampa 28-23 for the game…the Bolts were 1-6 on the power play, while Montreal was 0-5 with the man advantage…defenseman Randy Jones, scratched from the last game due to an upper body injury, led all skaters with four blocked shots…Kubina’s goal was his first since the third game of the year on October 14th in Philadelphia against the Flyers, and is the 12th scored by Tampa defenders this season…St. Louis’ power play tally was just his second on special teams this year…Stamkos had no shots on goal in the first two periods, but recorded four in the third.
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