Montreal Canadiens fans saw it from a distance for four years, and again in person Thursday night.
The play of Cedrick Desjardins, in his first career NHL game, was spectacular.
The 25-year-old goaltending prospect, acquired from Montreal’s top AHL affiliate in a late off-season trade, made 27 saves, notched his first career win and helped the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 4-1 victory Thursday night in front of a sellout crowd at the St. Pete Times Forum.
“I wasn’t really thinking about it too much,” Desjardins said. “I was just focused on the job I had to do. At the end, I had to give thanks to my teammates and my coaches. This was one of those moments you’ve always wanted to enjoy.”
Steven Stamkos beat Montreal goaltender Carey Price twice and tied a career-high with four points for the third time this season. His two goals Thursday gave him seven in as many games and extended a three-game goal streak. Price made 16 saves and was pulled with 7:50 left to go in the third period.
Stamkos made it 3-1 with his first of two in a span of 2:54 when he dazzled Price with a backhand following a magnificent spin move on a penalty shot.
“I've done that probably 10 times in practice and it's worked every time,” Stamkos said of the move. “I said 'What the heck, I'll give it a try.' I probably surprised Price. I've never done that before, so I'm just happy it went in.”
He beat the Montreal net minder a second time with a wrap-around that snuck under Price’s stick.
Montreal has lost eight of 10 and received a first-period goal from Max Pacioretty. He opened scoring 58 seconds into the contest with a wrist shot that went wide of Desjardins’ pad and into the net.
“I didn’t have the start I expected,” Desjardins said. “That happens, but I’ve been through those early goals before and that’s when you have to step up your game.”
Desjardins spent four seasons between the pipes for the Hamilton Bulldogs, Montreal’s top minor-league club, who were also led by current Lightning head coach Guy Boucher last season before making the jump to the NHL.
The Edmundston, New Brunswick native got the start after Dan Ellis had received the call in the team’s previous five straight, and while serving as Ellis’ backup for the injured Mike Smith who is out two weeks with a minor knee injury.
“The timing was right because our point streak was over,” Boucher said. “People think I put him in because it was the Canadiens, but it’s the opposite. When you play your first NHL game, your nerves are aloof and it’s very difficult to manage for everybody. I wanted to make sure to give him the best opportunity to focus on the task.”
St. Louis tied it at one on the power play at 2:58 of the second period. He posted up along the side of the net and sent a pass from Vincent Lecavalier past Price to knot the contest at one goal apiece. He extended his point streak to four games.
Kubina’s goal at 12:31 of the second that made it 2-1 pushed him past Dan Boyle as the franchise’s all-time leader in career goals by a defenseman.
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