MONTREAL – Although Brad Richards left the ice with an injury on Monday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning center didn’t skip a beat in Tuesday night’s contest against the Montreal Canadiens. Picking up an assist and scoring the game-winning shootout goal, Richards lifted the Lightning to a 3-2 win.
As Tampa Bay closed out a pair of back-to-back road games, goaltender Marc Denis made 28 saves and stopped all three skaters in the shootout to backstop the Lightning to the victory. Vincent Lecavalier and Andre Roy scored as Tampa Bay made their first appearance in Montreal this season.
During the first period both goaltenders held off eight shots for an early scoreless tie. Early in the opening frame Denis made a right shoulder save on a Tomas Plekanec wrist shot as the Montreal center skated in on a two-on-two play.
Denis followed up the play by denying Chris Higgins on an attempt from the right hash marks. After Saku Koivu looked for an outlet pass, Higgins flicked a quick wrist shot but Denis dropped down to make the save at the top of the crease.
Tampa Bay responded moments later after Brad Lukowich fed the puck to Richards at the left faceoff circle. Richards made a quick pass to Martin St. Louis as he skated to the slot, but the one-timed shot rang off the post to the right of netminder Carey Price.
Late in the frame Denis held on to a backhanded shot by Mathieu Dandenault before Price covered a Filip Kuba shot that Michel Ouellet re-directed in the slot.
Although the teams skated out of a scoreless first period it took less than two minutes for both teams to get on the board in the second. With both clubs connecting on the power play, Alexei Kovalev opened the scoring with his 13th goal of the season.
After Andrei Kastsitsyn moved the puck from the top of the slot to Kovalev at the right faceoff dot, the Montreal winger broke his stick as he fired a one-timer. Sending the broken blade and the puck to the net, Kovalev’s shot slipped past Denis’ right stick side for the score.
Responding only 1:03 later, Richards fed a pass across the blue line to Lecavalier as the Lightning skated with the man advantage. Lecavalier fired a slap shot from the left point as Chris Gratton created a screen in front of the net, beating Price to the left glove side for his 20th goal of the season.
Last season Lecavalier recorded his 20th goal during a December 21 match-up against the Ottawa Senators.
Denis later held off a sequence of shots by the Canadiens to keep the game tied at one. After stopping a Ryan O’Byrne shot through traffic with a left pad save, Denis got his glove on a shot by Higgins. The Tampa Bay goaltender made a final pad save on a Koivu rebound attempt to stop the play.
Minutes later Roy notched his second goal of the season to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead. After a dump-in by Gratton ended up in the left corner, O’Byrne lost control of the puck. Roy collected the puck and skated out to the front of the net, turning 360-degrees to flick a shot over Price’s right shoulder.
With the period winding down Tampa Bay put a pair of strong chances on goal. After a Vaclav Prospal wrist-shot that was held off by a right pad save Price batted away a Lecavalier shot at the final horn of the frame.
The chances kept coming in the third as Denis held off Higgins early in the final period. Skating down the left wing Higgins cut to the net, but Denis made a diving poke save to keep the Montreal forward off the board. Price responded by turning away a backhanded shot by Mathieu Darche.
With less than five minutes remaining in the contest Plekanec circled the left side of the Canadiens’ offensive zone before firing a shot on goal. Jumping up to intercept a clearing attempt, Plekanec put a high shot to the short side against Denis to tie the game at two.
Late in the game Denis stymied attempts by Maxim Lapierre and Kovalev as they tried to jab at the puck in the crease before Price made closing saves to send the contest into overtime. After stopping Lecavalier deep in the zone, Price held on to a shot by Lukowich at the final horn.
During the extra time Denis stopped three shots as the Canadiens skated on a power play to close out the contest, sending the game to the shootout.
Richards was the lone skater to connect in the shootout, scoring his goal with a wrist shot into the top left corner of the net. Denis stopped Plekanec, Kastsitsyn and Koivu to earn his first win of the season.
In his career Denis has stopped 35 of 41 shots faced in the shootout. The Lightning netminder made 28 saves as Tampa Bay out-shot Montreal 31-30 through 65 minutes of play. Both teams connected once with the man advantage.
The Lightning return to their home ice at the St. Pete Times Forum on Thursday, December 13 (7:30p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE) to face off against the Calgary Flames. In the first game of a two game homestand, Tampa Bay will host Calgary for the first time since June 7, 2004, when the clubs met in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
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