On the second night of back-to-back games, the Tampa Bay Lightning dropped game No. 80 on the year to the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 4-2.
Despite being dramatically outplayed and outskated by the Canadiens in the first period, the Bolts found themselves in a 1-1 tie after 20 minutes. Steven Stamkos scored his 43rd goal and 95th point on the year, after his backhanded pass out to the front of the net deflected off of Max Domi’s skate and past Carey Price.
The Lightning were lucky to be tied at 1-1 at the end of the first, with most of the credit being owed to Eddie Pasquale who blocked 18 shots in the first period, which included some highlight-reel saves on a breakaway shot by Brendan Gallagher and a Tomas Tatar shot and follow-up rebound attempt by Gallagher.
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The Bolts finally got a couple pushes into the Habs’ zone early in the second and capitalized when Adam Erne found Cedric Paquette open in the slot to deflect a pass past Price, putting Tampa Bay up 2-1. But just more than two minutes later, Joel Armia put in a shot on an impossible angle off of Pasquale’s chest, tying it up 2-2.
Pasquale again was spectacular in net for the second period, stopping all but one of Montreal’s 16 shots on net, if not for that unconventional bank-shot off of Pasquale’s body in the crease.
The third period and game would be won by the Habs after Artturi Lehkonen put in the game-winning goal after batting the puck out of the air in front of the Lightning crease and smacking it into the net. Less than three minutes later, Domi got a one-on-one look on Pasquale and buried another for the Canadiens to make it 4-2.
The Canadiens played a very well-disciplined game, keeping the potent Lighting power play from seeing any time on the ice for all 60 minutes. With the exception of a two-minute holding call late in the third period – that would be matched up with an embellishment call against the Bolts – the Habs kept themselves out of the box for the entirety of the game.
This was an effort put forth by a desperate Canadiens team seeking points to push their way into the playoff picture. The win tonight ties them with the Blue Jackets at 94 points, yet they still sit just outside the second Wild Card spot in the East since Columbus holds the tiebreaker with three more regulation/overtime wins.
The effort by Tampa Bay was one to be expected from a team that is so far ahead of the rest of the league in the standings, which is uncharacteristic of what we have seen from this Bolts squad. Although this game had no impact on playoff positioning for the Lightning, there should be no question that this team wants to go into the postseason feeling good about its game and effort out on the ice in its remaining regular season schedule.
The only real positive from this game was the play of Pasquale. In what was just his second-ever NHL start, Pasquale came in for the injured Louis Domingue and stopped 41 of 45 shots, finishing the night with a .911 save percentage. His performance definitely showcased his skill between the pipes and proved his potential to fill the second-string spot, should it open up in the near future.
The Lightning will have a day off tomorrow as they will head to Toronto and look forward to their match against the division-rival Maple Leafs on Thursday night.