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Lightning (39-22-9, 87 Points) at Canadiens (38-25-7, 83 Points)
Last 10: Tampa Bay (4-4-2); Montreal (7-3-0)
Season Series: The two clubs meet for the fourth and final time tonight in the season series finale at the Bell Centre. Montreal avoided a potential season-series sweep in the most recent meeting between the teams, earning a 4-2 victory at the St. Pete Times Forum earlier this month. Tampa Bay previously had taken each of the first two meetings, including a come-from-behind overtime win on Oct. 13 in Montreal and an additional victory on home ice just prior to the New Year.
The Big Story: The Lightning are on the verge of achieving 40 wins in a season for just the fourth-time in franchise history. Each of the previous three times the team has accomplished that it has earned a playoff berth, including two trips to the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and one Stanley Cup championship. In addition, the Bolts are also looking to build on a big 6-2 win Monday night in order to gain separation from the Canadiens – one spot behind Tampa Bay – in the Eastern Conference standings, as well as come within just one point of Pittsburgh the fourth spot in the playoff picture.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay will play in the second-to-last contest of a four-game road trip that began in south Florida and has since moved up north of the border into Canada. Tampa Bay has points in two of two games so far, earning one in an overtime loss to Florida last Saturday and coming up with two more following a big win over Toronto on Monday that saw the club explode offensively for six goals after it had just two or fewer in seven of the previous nine games. Secondary scoring is what head coach Guy Boucher asked for prior to Monday’s win and that was exactly what he got following 60 minutes of play. Mattias Ritola set a career-high with two goals in the game and Teddy Purcell also matched a career-best with three assists. Tampa Bay also got goals from Nate Thompson, Mike Lundin, Dominic Moore and Vincent Lecavalier, while Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos each had a pair of assists to extend individual points streaks to five games apiece. The win also gave the Lightning their first season-series sweep of the Maple Leafs, marking the first time since 2005-06 that Tampa Bay has swept a season series of at least four games against three different teams in the same season.
CANADIENS – Montreal has not played more than two consecutive games at home since the middle of February, and such is the case again tonight when the Canadiens host the Bolts in the finale of a two-game home stand. The first contest in the Habs home arena did not go as well as they would have liked, dropping a 4-2 contest to the Capitals, who have won nine straight games. Montreal kept it close through 40 minutes, as Andrei Kostitsyn tied things up at two in the second period after Washington had taken a one-goal lead into the intermission. It only lasted so long, however, as the Capitals got two more goals in the third to pull away and extend the league’s longest team winning streak.
Who’s Hot: Tampa Bay’s top three stars have been leading the way as of late. Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos come in with a pair of individual five-game points streaks that include two goals and six assists in that span. Vincent Lecavalier also has 10 goals in his last 16 games. Montreal’s Travis Moen has two goals in as many games for the Canadiens and Lars Eller has picked up three points in his last four games.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Ryan Malone (mid body, out indefinitely, placed on Injured Reserve), Steve Downie (lower body, day-to-day) and Randy Jones (lower body, out indefinitely). CANADIENS – Andrei Markov (knee), Josh Gorges (lower body), Jaroslav Spacek (lower body), Mathieu Darche (lower body), Max Pacioretty (concussion) and Brent Sopel (upper body).
Notable Quotable: “We were looking for secondary scoring. We got secondary scoring. The message was you can’t have Stamkos, St. Louis and Lecavalier and wait for them to score goals. That’s not the way it goes.” – Head coach Guy Boucher, on the key to winning Monday’s game against Toronto
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