The Tampa Bay Lightning had the shots and had the chances, but following another well-played effort, all it was missing was the win.
Dominic Moore had a goal, Vincent Lecavalier added a third-period tally and Dwayne Roloson turned in 19 saves, but in a 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd of 20,274.
Tampa Bay, losers in three straight, remains in third place at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, two points ahead of Montreal, who is sixth with 79 points.
“You battle a lot of adversity throughout the year and right now we’re in the middle of it,” Lightning forward Martin St. Louis said. “We’ve been facing adversity all year. We knew this wasn’t going to be easy. We’ve been grinding it out all year.”
Max Pacioretty scored twice for the Canadiens, 5-1-0 in their last six games. Hal Gill and David Desharnais also added goals for Montreal. Carey Price made 43 saves.
The win gave Montreal a stretch of four consecutive victories for the third time this year, tying a season-high.
“I think Carey was a definite factor in the win tonight,” Montreal head coach Jacques Martin said. “We got two power-play goals that were huge and I thought our penalty kill worked extremely well.”
Price stopped all but three of the 116 shots he faced during a three-game road sweep of Southeast opponents Atlanta, Florida and Tampa Bay.
The Canadiens avenged two previous losses to Tampa Bay, including one early in the season at the Bell Centre and an additional contest in Tampa Bay on Dec. 30.
Saturday night, it took advantage of Tampa Bay’s slow start to open the game.
Montreal went up by a pair of early goals when Gill made it 1-0 after opening the scoring with a slap shot through traffic at 5:27 and Desharnais doubled the lead on the power play with a nifty backhand past Rolson 3:14 later.
Gill, who had not scored in 99 previous games, has goals in two straight.
The Lightning, who set a season-high team record with 45 shots on goal, failed to notch the game’s opening goal for the first time in six games. Tampa Bay also had not allowed an opposing first-period goal since Feb. 17 in a 6-2 loss to Detroit.
“I’m not surprised, I’m shocked by our slow start,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “Our urgency level was very low and theirs was very high. The teams that are chasing us right now seem to have more urgency.”
Moore cut the deficit in half on the power play to open scoring in the second.
Montreal limited to the Lightning to just one goal on six opportunities with the man advantage. The Canadiens showed why their road penalty kill ranks third in the NHL when it killed off a 5-on-3 Tampa Bay power play early in the third period.
“Our guys did a great job,” Martin added. “I thought that was huge at that time in the hockey game.”
The Canadiens went back up by a goal at 14:05 of the middle stanza. Pacioretty gathered a rebound out in front and restored the lead with the man advantage, then put in his second of the night at 1:18 in the third to make it 4-1.
Lecavalier closed the scoring with 5:53 to go.
“It took us a while to get going in this game,” St. Louis said. “I know that we have to bring our best game from the get-go. I know if we do that we can be better than this.”
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