The Tampa Bay Lightning have not had a problem getting early leads of late, but holding on to them has been the issue; but not tonight as the Lightning jumped to a 2-1 advantage in the first period, extended it and protected it, to shatter a nine-game winless streak against the Montreal Canadiens.
Montreal was first on the scoreboard when Lightning center Paul Szczechura was called for slashing at 4:55 of the opening period. Skating with the man advantage, Patrice Brisebois fired a shot from the high slot which eluded Olaf Kolzig, starting in net for the Lightning tonight.
When Canadien forward Maxim Lapierre was sent to the penalty box for interfering with Steven Stamkos 37 seconds after Brisebois’s goal, Tampa Bay almost came right back but Vincent Lecavalier’s rebound attempt was snared by Montreal netminder Jaroslav Halak.
The Canadien lead only managed to hold up for just over five minutes, however, as Martin St. Louis extended his consecutive game scoring streak to six when his shot from the face-off circle to Halak’s right found the twine. St. Louis collected goal number nine on the season, assisted by Mark Recchi and Lecavalier.
Just 74 seconds later, at 12:03, the Lightning struck again when Lecavalier popped home a rebound of an Andrej Meszaros shot from the blueline. The goal was Lecavalier’s team-leading 12th of the season and his second point of the game. Lukas Krajicek also received an assist on the score.
Just as occurred twice last evening against Buffalo, Tampa Bay was faced with killing a power play late in the period when Ryan Craig was called for hooking at 17:50. But history was not repeating itself this game, as the Lightning held Montreal off the scoreboard and took their 2-1 lead into the locker room.
“We deserved more than we’ve been getting lately,” St. Louis observed. “Tonight, we fell behind but fought back.”
Special team play has hurt the Lightning recently, but not tonight, and in the second period Tampa Bay special teams would help secure the win.
The Lightning penalty killers disposed of three Canadien power plays with no damage and added to the lead when, with Marek Malik off the ice for interference, St. Louis scored the Lightning’s first shorthanded goal of the season at 8:31 when he grabbed a pass from Krajicek, broke in alone and beat Halak with a wrist shot for his second goal of the game and 10th for the season.
In the third period, Montreal applied the pressure, firing 13 shots on the Lightning net, but Kolzig was equal to everything he faced, coming up with one big save after another.
At the final buzzer, Tampa Bay had their win, 3-1, and the winless streak was history.
Kolzig’s work in net, 31 saves on 32 shots, was helped by the 25 shots that the Lightning managed to block, lead by Meszaros with seven and defenseman Steve Eminger with five.
Interim coach Rick Tocchet had praise for Kolzig, along with the effort of the entire team.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Tocchet said. “This was a character win. Lots of guys played great tonight.”
The Lightning will seek a split of the current four-game road trip Saturday night when they face the Senators in Ottawa.
1 - 0 MTL
Martin St. Louis
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 TBL
Martin St. Louis
3 - 1 TBL