Vincent Lecavalier regained his scoring touch on Wednesday night.
The Lightning captain scored for the first time since coming back from injury, and Sebastien Caron made 20 saves, but on the wrong end of a 5-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
The loss snapped a modest two-game win streak for the Lightning, while Montreal won for just the first time in five games.
“We just had to make sure to get pucks deep, keep it simple and not get too fancy,” Lightning assistant coach Martin Raymond said. “But at times we were trying to do too much, maybe forcing some things, and it cost us.”
Bruno Gervais also had a goal for Tampa Bay, which will wrap up the second half of a back-to-back set Thursday night at Toronto before concluding the regular season Saturday night in Winnipeg.
Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty each scored twice for the Canadiens, while backup goaltender Peter Budaj made 14 saves. Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais each added two assists.
Montreal outshot the Lightning 25-16 in the contest, as Budaj wasn’t necessarily busy on the night, but did face some competition from the NHL’s leading goal scorer Steven Stamkos.
Stamkos, who is just two shy of 60 goals with two games left, was held off the score sheet but had several good looks throughout the game.
Just past the midway point, Stamkos came down the ice facing Canadiens rookie defenseman Frederic St-Denis all alone. He deftly got around him, but was hooked by Louis Leblanc before he could get a decent shot away.
With just over three minutes remaining in the first, Teddy Purcell appeared to have a good shooting lane from the slot, but instead attempted an ambitious pass to Stamkos at the far post that failed to connect.
Then, with just under 30 seconds left in the first, Stamkos came down with Martin St. Louis on a 2-on-1 break. St. Louis fed Stamkos perfectly, but when Stamkos cut in front of Budaj, his shot went wide.
Alex Emelin had Montreal’s other goal and opened the scoring 2:11 into the game after gathering his own rebound and beating Caron for his third of the season.
Lecavalier tied it just 5:15 later though when Budaj turned the puck over in a clearing attempt right to the Lightning captain in the slot, who wristed one into an empty net.
The goal was Lecavalier’s first since Feb. 16. He had missed 18 games with non-displaced fracture in his right hand prior to returning Mar. 29.
Cole put Montreal back up by one just 1:42 into the middle frame after beating Caron cleanly with a slap shot from the right circle. He then made it 3-1 with his second of the night while on the power play at 14:34 of the second.
“We needed to stop turning the puck over,” Bolts forward Nate Thompson said. “If we did that and sustained offensive pressure, that would have kept them out of our zone.”
After Gervais made it 3-2 in the third, Pacioretty doubled the Canadiens lead when he pounced on a puck and put it past Caron after Eric Brewer fell down in the defensive zone.
His second of the night came at 14:57 of the third that capped the scoring at 5-2.