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After a dismal end to a four-game road trip, the Montreal Canadiens return to the Bell Centre to meet the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday in the second game of a home-and-home series.
The Canadiens (22-11-5) lost three of four on the road trip, with their offense managing just one goal in each of the last two games including a 3-1 loss to the Lightning (18-19-2) on Saturday.
Montreal didn't put much of an effort as it was outshot 41-13, and failed to convert a power play for the second straight games. The Canadiens went 1-for-13 with the man advantage during the road trip.
"We just didn't respond," said Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau. "I don't know if it's that we're tired, or just not prepared to battle."
The Canadiens are in second place in the Northeast Division with 49 points, but they have scored the fourth-fewest goals in the division (118). The difference has been the team's defense, which has allowed 104 goals this season - second-fewest in the Eastern Conference.
Goaltender Cristobal Huet has been a big part of the team's defensive effort. He is 15-6-3 with a 2.36 goals-against average. He had 38 saves Saturday, including 22 in the first period, but that wasn't enough to quell his frustration.
"I tried to help the team, but I'm never satisfied when we lose the game," said Huet, who is 3-2-0 with a 2.02 GAA in five career starts against Tampa Bay. "You always think you can do something better."
Seven of Huet's wins have come at home, where his team has won four in a row and is 12-4-3 this season. The Canadiens play four of their next five games at the Bell Centre, including a three-game stretch beginning Jan. 4, which includes contests against the division leaders New Jersey and Atlanta Thrashers and a matchup against the New York Rangers, who are in second place in the Atlantic.
Montreal has won five of the last seven games against Tampa Bay, but the teams have split the last six games at the Bell Centre. The Lightning lost 4-2 on Dec. 14.
The Canadiens are trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak this season
Tampa Bay is hoping to use Saturday's win as a springboard as it starts a a four-game road trip which includes stops in Minnesota, Colorado and Pittsburgh. The Lightning are just 8-8-2 on the road this season.
"I thought we made a pretty good statement tonight with the 60-minute effort," Tampa Bay's Vinny Prospal said after Saturday's win over Montreal. "It showed on the shots and it showed on the scoreboard with the final result."
Prospal snapped a 20-game goal-scoring drought with a tie-breaking, second-period goal. The center has nine goals and 23 points in 33 games against the Canadiens.
Forward Vincent Lecavalier, a native of suburban Montreal, has scored at least one point in 11 of 14 career games on the road against the hometown team totaling five goals and seven assists.
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