Tampa Bay Lightning overcomes shaky start to defeat Montreal Canadiens

(Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Lightning got off to a shaky start but was able to find their groove and defeat the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

The Tampa Bay Lightning charged into the Bell Centre tonight to take on the Montreal Canadiens in the first game of a back-to-back weekend series. While this story does have a happy ending, it wasn’t always wine and roses for the boys in blue.

The Bolts didn’t exactly get off to the start they would’ve wanted against the Canadiens. Less than one minute into the game and an ill-timed turnover from Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev would lead to a goal from Habs forward Max Domi to give them the early lead.

There is a good chance we have the unpopular opinion here, but it’s starting to feel as if Sergachev needs to take a seat for a few games and utilize his newly found free time to get his head on straight. However, this is another story for another day.

It took the Tampa Bay Lightning a little bit past the halfway point in the period, but they would eventually get back in the game. The tying goal would come from the stick of Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who picked up his third goal of the season. It’s never a bad time to see your captain put up some offensive production.

Apparently, this was the spark the Bolts needed to get back into this game and shake off their less-than-stellar start. A little less than three minutes after the Stamkos goal the Lightning took the lead away from the Canadiens with a game from J.T. Miller.

The Miller goal started when defenseman Anton Stralman was able to get the shaft of his stick on the puck to keep it in the offensive zone. Without missing a beat, Miller swung around, took control of the puck, and the rest was history. This was definitely a solid way to swing the momentum in the Lightning’s favor.

After an incredibly shaky start to the game, the Lightning was able to totally turn things around and masterfully shift momentum back to their side. When the buzzer sounded to end the first period, the Lightning outshot the Canadiens 18-12 and edged out the Habs 55-45 in the faceoff circle.

There is definitely something to be said about the pure skill Andrei Vasilevskiy showed in the first period. If not for him, there is a very good chance the Lightning could’ve been looking down the business end of a two or three goal deficit in the first half of the first 20 minutes of play.

The Montreal Canadiens would get the first crack at the man advantage in the second period as Mathieu Joseph was sent to the sin bin for grabbing the stick of Canadiens forward Phillip Danault. There is a time and place for everything, but directly in front of the official is not the place for something like this.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning /

Tampa Bay Lightning

The good news here is, the Lightning penalty kill was able to survive the deficit and came out on the other side relatively unscathed. In fact, Joseph had a tremendous scoring chance coming out of the penalty box, but regrettably, Habs netminder Carey Price was able to make the stop and shut this one down.

The Lightning would spend much of the final minutes of the second period on the penalty kill as Braydon Coburn was sent to the penalty box for two minutes for Tripping against Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin. Coburn was none too pleased about the call and while he has a case to argue, the officials are not easily swayed by logic. Despite his best efforts, Coburn would make his way to the box.

On the bright side, the Lightning would hold strong and put an end to the shorthanded situation. Seconds later, the horn would sound and the second period of play would come to an end. Much like the conclusion of the first period of play, the Bolts would lead the Habs by the score of 2-1.

While the score may have remained the same through the second period, a couple of things definitely shifted in favor of the Montreal Canadiens. The Bolts were outshot 7-17 by the Habs in the second period for a two-period total of 25-29. This is a stark contrast from the 18-12 the Lightning outshot the Canadiens in the first.

Things also shifted a bit in the faceoff circle. In the first, the Lightning controlled the faceoff circle 55-45. In the second period of play, the Canadiens shifted these numbers in their favor to the tune of 48-52. While this may not seem like much of a difference, the slightest difference in stats like this can create a giant shift in momentum.

If the Tampa Bay Lightning wanted to hold on to their one-goal lead in the final period of play, they would have to continue to limit the number of chances the Canadiens would get in front of the net and continue to apply some offensive pressure of their own. Sounds easy enough, right?

Well, apparently it was just that easy. It was a mere 52 seconds into the third period when Stamkos would pick up his second goal of the night (fourth of the season) to extend the Lightning’s lead over the Canadiens to 3-1. Stammer’s play tonight is definitely a step in the right direction when it comes to getting his groove back this season.

The Lightning had an opportunity with the man advantage around seven and a half minutes into the third period as Tomas Tatar was sent to the box for Holding against Brayden Point. Regrettably, the Lightning was not able to get anything going at all during the Power Play.

However, this was not the end of the line for the Bolts when it came to scoring. With just over four minutes left in the game, Yanni Gourde takes a rebound and sends it flying past Price to increase the Lightning’s lead over the Canadiens to three goals. This serves as Gourde’s fifth goal of the season.

When the final buzzer sounded, the Tampa Bay Lightning would defeat the Montreal Canadiens 4-1. The victory included a pair of goals from the captain, a tremendous combo from Anton Stralman and J.T. Miller, and Yanni Gourde’s fifth goal of the season.

Let’s not forget about the stellar performance from Andrei Vasilevskiy, who stopped 29 of 30 shots on goal tonight for a Save Percentage of .971. The lone goal Vasy let in tonight came in the first minute of the game. Other than that, he was rock solid. Tonight’s victory was Vasy’s seventh win of the season.

23. 1. 152. Final. 4

As we mentioned previously, the Lightning got off to an incredibly shaky start. However, the important thing here is the Lightning wasted no time in finding their groove and picking up the ever-important two points against a Divisional opponent. Of course, this is only the first half of the Lightning’s mission.

In less than 24 hours, the Lightning will make their way to the Canadian Tire Centre to take on the Ottawa Senators. The Sens are definitely not going to be in a good mood tomorrow when they hit the ice. While the Lightning was busy handling the Canadiens, the Senators were staring down the business end of a 9-2 rout at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres. Don’t adjust your eyes…we did, in fact, say the Buffalo Sabres.

The Bolts will need to get off to a much better start against the Senators than they did tonight against the Canadiens. Also, they will need to continue to keep the pressure on the Senators for a whole 60 minutes of hockey. The Sens are going to be desperate to redeem themselves after their abysmal showing tonight, and the Lightning will need to be ready to fight back.

Next. Former Lightning F Brian Boyle's Cancer Is In Remission. dark

As for tonight, the Lightning can rest easy knowing their hard work translated to success against the Canadiens. Tomorrow night, the Bolts will need to be ready to hit the ice ready for a fight. Here’s hoping the Lightning can keep the momentum moving in the right direction and pick up another two divisional points.