ON THE ROAD WITH DAVE MISHKIN
|Tampa Bay Lightning @ Montreal Canadiens
Greetings from Montreal, where the Lightning and Canadiens play tonight at the Bell Centre. It’ll be the third contest between the clubs since December 11 – the road team has won each of the first two meetings.
The Lightning have mixed feelings about Tuesday’s shootout loss in Toronto. On the one hand, they left one point on the table at a juncture of the season when they desperately need victories. On the other hand, the Lightning got the one point thanks to Paul Ranger’s tying sixth-attacker goal in the final minute. Third period rallies have not occurred with particular regularity in the first half of the season, so it was a good sign that the team found a way to salvage one point in a game in which it trailed late in the third.
As I wrote in Tuesday’s blog, many of Tampa Bay’s recent problems can be chalked up to a lack of confidence. Unconfident teams tend to play more tentatively than clubs that feel good about themselves. In all sports, especially hockey, tentative play does not usually lead to positive results. That’s why what has happened in the last two Lightning games – the comeback against the Maple Leafs and a good two periods against the Flyers on Saturday afternoon – could help the team regain some of its lost swagger. They may be small steps (particularly because the Bolts have gone 0-1-1 in those two games), but at least they are steps in the right directions.
The Lightning got solid performances from their bottom two lines against Toronto. Andreas Karlsson, centering the fourth line, scored Tampa Bay’s first goal. Secondary scoring has been an issue this year for Tampa Bay, so hopefully the third and fourth lines can keep it going tonight against the Canadiens. John Tortorella told the media after the game that while he liked how the bottom two lines played, he felt that Toronto’s top players outperformed the Lightning’s top players. Even so, Vinny Lecavalier and Vinny Prospal each posted two assists while Marty St. Louis netted his 14th goal. Typically, Lecavalier, St. Louis and Brad Richards play quite well in Montreal and they will need to lead the way for the Bolts tonight.
Tortorella also stated repeatedly the past couple of days that the Lightning has “to play at a different level.” If they can reach that higher level of desperation (as they did in their last visit to Montreal), they will have a great chance to win another game at the Bell Centre.