TAMPA, Fla. – On Tuesday night Vaclav Prospal scored twice and tied his career-high for goals in a season, lifting the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-2 victory against the Montreal Canadiens. As the clubs met for the fourth and final time this season, Prospal and the Lightning made a one-game stop at the St. Pete Times Forum in the midst of four games on the road.
|Vaclav Prospal celebrates after scoring the winning goal 11:51 into the third period. (Bruce Bennett/NHLI via Getty Images)|
Michel Ouellet posted the first Lightning goal and Vincent Lecavalier added two assists as the club skated to their third win in four games. Between the pipes for Tampa Bay, Kari Ramo made 19 saves to post the win.
Although the Canadiens opened the scoring 50 seconds into the contest, Ramo and the Lightning buckled down to tie the game at two skating into the middle period.
Connecting on a breakaway, Chris Higgins recorded his 17th goal of the season to give Montreal the early lead. After skating an outlet pass by Andrei Markov into the zone, the Canadiens winger deked as he got to the net and slid the puck to the right of Ramo.
Moments later Ramo got a pad save on a second Montreal breakaway attempt, denying Tomas Plekanec on the short-handed shot. The save helped pave the way for Tampa Bay to tie the game at one.
Scoring at 5:15 of the period, Ouellet notched his seventh goal of the season. As Chris Gratton fed a pass out of the corner, Jan Hlavac gained control of the puck for a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle. Montreal goalkeeper Cristobel Huet got a piece of the shot, but Ouellet jumped on the loose puck to put it into the open side of the net.
|Michel Ouellet (7) scores on Cristobal Huet (39) in the first period. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)|
Minutes later the Canadiens converted a man-advantage opportunity to regain their one-goal lead. After the puck deflected off the left side boards, Mark Streit made a pass to the slot where Plekanec snapped a shot for the score.
Fighting back to tie the game by the end of the period, Prospal recorded his first of two goals in the contest. Converting a spin-around, backhanded pass by Lecavalier from the slot, Prospal fired a wrist shot from the top of the left faceoff circle. The shot beat Huet to the stick side with 40.4 seconds remaining in the frame.
Holding the Canadiens to four shots during the second period, the Lightning posted 10 shots as they looked to gain their first lead of the night.
Early in the second Hlavac carried the puck into the zone before snapping a shot on goal. Hlavac later fed a pass to Ouellet at the goal line to the right of Huet. Ouellet forwarded the puck to Prospal whose shot sailed inches wide of the net.
Mid-way through the period Craig MacDonald got a pair of quick shots against the Canadiens. Huet made the save on the initial shot before MacDonald’s rebound attempt went wide.
As the middle period wound down Hlavac skated the puck around the Montreal defense to get a shot on Huet from a few feet outside of the crease. Huet made the right pad save, and had to be quick to follow up the rebound attempt as Nick Tarnasky jumped into the play to snap off a shot.
With the teams entering the third period tied at two, Lecavalier and Prospal got a pair of shots from a few feet outside of the goalmouth. Ramo responded with a save on Saku Koivu at the side of the net before Prospal scored to give the Lightning a 3-2 lead.
Fighting Markov for the puck behind the net, Lecavalier gained control for a pass out to Prospal at the right hash marks. Prospal fired a shot that trickled through the five-hole against Huet, posting his second goal of the night.
With the score, Prospal recorded his 25th goal of the season to tie his previous career high. Prospal last posted 25 goals during the 2005-06 campaign with the Lightning.
The game marked Prospal’s fourth multi-goal effort of the season, and the Tampa Bay winger has scored in five of his previous seven games.
Late in the game as Montreal tried to tie the score, Siarhei Kastsitsyn and Plekanec put quick shots on Ramo. The Lightning goaltender dropped to his crease to cover the final attempt by Plekanec from the side of the net, preserving the lead.
“Come the second period we’ve started taking over games lately, and we did it again tonight,” defenseman Shane O’Brien said. “Everyone was just digging it and it’s just fun to be a part of this team right now. We never quit and we’re getting rewarded a little bit now.”
Tampa Bay out-shot Montreal 36-21 in the contest. The Canadiens scored once with the man-advantage while holding the Lightning off the board through two power play opportunities.
With the win, Tampa Bay recorded their third win in their previous four games. The Lightning have not dropped a game in regulation since a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on February 2.
“They’re all big,” Martin St. Louis said of the win. “Looking where we are in the standings, all these games are big. Our playoffs have started a little while back now and we’re playing like it, and that’s why we’re getting the results.”
The Lightning split the season series with the Canadiens as the clubs posted two wins each. Prospal led all Tampa Bay skaters with six points (four goals, two assists) through four games.
Dishing out two assists in the contest, Lecavalier extended his current point streak to four games. The Lightning center has recorded five assists and six points during the stretch, for 74 points (32 goals, 42 assists) on the season.
With his points in the contest Lecavalier moved back into second place in the league scoring race, remaining only two points behind league-leader Alexander Ovechkin.
Tampa Bay returns to the road on Thursday, February 14 (7:00p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE) for a one-game match-up against the Philadelphia Flyers. The game marks the first of two meetings at Philadelphia within the next month.
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