As for Brett Connolly, he appears ready to join them on the opening night roster.
Stamkos and Connolly each scored twice and Roloson stopped all 24 shots faced as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-0 at the Bell Centre on Thursday night.
The win marked Tampa Bay’s third in a row, and its first-ever preseason victory against Montreal.
“We decided we needed to flip the switch now instead of trying to do it once the regular season to started,” Stamkos said.
It worked. Meanwhile, Montreal extended its losing streak to four games and dropped to 1-6-0 during the preseason. The Canadiens have yet to win a game in regulation thus far in exhibition play.
A high-octane pace dictated the first 10 minutes of the contest. Both teams generated a number of good scoring chances, the first of which went to the Lightning just minutes into the game.
Much like Tampa Bay, Montreal had multiple opportunities to get on the board, but missed on open chances that primarily plagued the club throughout the entire game, including a number of solid opportunities on the power play.
Stamkos put the Bolts up 1-0 early on with the game’s first goal.
After defenseman Bruno Gervais fired a shot on net, Stamkos gathered the rebound and roofed a wrist shot above the left shoulder of Montreal goaltender Peter Budaj to open the scoring at 3:47.
“I was fortunate to get into the play and get the puck over to Stamkos for the goal,” Gervais said. “He’s got the magic touch.”
Budaj made 29 saves.
Tomas Plekanec nearly drew Montreal even following the game-opening tally, but his attempt to finish off a two-on-one rush with Mike Cammalleri sailed wide off the post. Cammalleri would again be denied during a Canadiens power play thanks to a superb save by Roloson.
Tampa Bay took a two-goal lead off Stamkos’ second of the night at 9:22. With the Lightning in transition, Martin St. Louis took a pass off the boards before peeling back and teeing one up to Stamkos, who with a little help from an inadvertent screen by Montreal forward David Desharnais, one-timed a blazing slap shot to the inside of the far post to make it 2-0.
What was good fortune for Tampa Bay in the first period, though, quickly turned to tough luck.
First, a shot from Vincent Lecavalier that trickled through the legs of Budaj appeared to give the Lightning a 3-0 lead in the opening minutes of the second, but instead was waived off to keep the lead at two. Then, Roloson was brushed up high in a sequence around the net and was down on the ice for several minutes before being tended to. He would stay in the game, coming up big on more chances in his own end than his Lightning teammates generated down at the other.
Stamkos and St. Louis nearly cashed in again on an odd-man rush late in the second, but Connolly cleaned up quickly where his teammates couldn’t.
Connolly’s second goal in as many games, this time from his knees in the low slot, made it 3-0 at 16:43. He capped the scoring in the final minutes of regulation, scoring with a wrist shot after completing a nifty toe drag move around a Montreal defender.
“It’s definitely exciting,” Connolly said. “Tonight, playing with two of the best players in the world in Marty and Stammer, that was fun.”
Since arriving in training camp two weeks ago, the Campbell River, British Columbia native has become a mainstay on the ice, racking up three goals in his past two games. His offensive abilities, as well as an increased desire to chase pucks deep and work the dirty areas of the ice, have him in contention for one of the final roster spots come time for the regular season opener on Oct. 7.
“These games have allowed us to see a lot of good things from our team and frankly it’s making our job very difficult to finalize our roster,” Lightning assistant coach Dan Lacroix said. “We’re pleased with what we’ve seen, but we’re still making it a point though to improve.”
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