Martin St. Louis and Kurtis Foster have had more in common lately than just a number on a jersey.
The duo entered Wednesday night’s matchup with Montreal with a combined total of 11 assists between them in their last five games. Despite a hard-fought, evenly-played 2-1 overtime loss to the Canadiens, the two Lightning teammates were in usual form as they helped the Bolts pick up a key point in the Eastern Conference standings.
After Foster set up St. Louis’ game-winner on Monday against Boston, the Lightning winger returned the favor on Wednesday by assisting on Foster’s game-tying goal, which erased a one-to-nothing deficit at the start of the third period. The tally was St. Louis’ 36th of the season, ranking him in tied for second place among NHL assist leaders. Foster recorded his 10th point in December, with nine of them coming since Dec. 15 at Nashville.
Goaltender Mike Smith, who made a season-high fifth consecutive start and who has gone unbeaten in regulation in four out of his last five, including three wins, took over from there.
The Lightning net minder stopped 33 of 35 shots against and Tampa Bay’s defense maintained a strong presence at the blue line, allowing Montreal to muster just four shots in the remainder of regulation as the Bolts forced the game into overtime.
Tomas Plekanec recorded the deciding goal 3:32 into the extra session for Montreal, who has won five out of their last six.
Brian Gionta also scored for the Habs with his ninth goal of the season halfway through the second period, ending a 30-minute scoreless drought to open the game.
Montreal goaltender Carey Price made 34 saves on 35 shots against, as well.
“Going into the game I felt fine, and as it went on, I started to feel more comfortable,” Price said. “It’s been almost two weeks since I played last, but the guys were playing well and I thought we had a great first period. That kind of got me into the game.”
Tampa Bay has won four out of its last six, including two out of its last three at home.
“I thought we were hard to play against in the third period, but we just couldn’t find our game,” St. Louis said. “We had a couple of bad bounces, but we still got a point out of this one after a hard third period effort. Our goaltending was strong and it would have been nice get two [points], but we’ve just got to keep pushing.”
“We played a really good third period, but you’re going to get games when you’re kind of flat,” head coach Rick Tocchet said. You’re going to be flat sometimes, but I think good teams know how to come out of that. If you’re not feeling that great, you’ve got to keep the game simple.”
In spite of the defeat, the Lightning extended their point streak against Montreal, picking up points in their last seven matchups in which they are unbeaten in regulation, posting a record of 4-0-3.
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