It wasn’t the result they were hoping for, but the Lightning did get one point, which gives them seven earned in the last four games, as Tampa Bay saw their three-game winning streak halted courtesy of a shootout loss to the visiting Montreal Canadiens.
Penalties filled the opening period as a total of 22 minutes of infractions were called, highlighted by a hard-fought battle at 7:09 which woke up the St. Pete Times Forum crowd of 20,454 as Lightning forward Evengy Artyukhin pounded Montreal Forward Tom Kostopoulos to the ice.
The Tampa Bay power play finally broke through at 13:18, while Canadien defenseman Roman Hamrlik sat in the penalty box for high-sticking. Ryan Malone fired a shot from the high slot which Vaclav Prospal was able to deflect past Montreal netminder Carey Price. The goal was Prospal’s seventh of the season. Martin St. Louis, who also earned an assist on the goal, and Malone, each have seven points in the last four games.
The competitive first period came to a close with Tampa Bay, racking up 12 hits to Montreal’s 10, clinging to a one goal game.
The end-to-end action continued as the second period settled into a hard-hitting defensive battle. The Canadiens had two power play opportunities in the second period but the Lightning penalty killers were superb, holding Montreal without a shot on goal in each instance.
The Canadiens didn’t wait too long in the final period before dashing Lightning netminder Mike Smith’s shutout hopes. Just 45 seconds after the puck dropped to start the final stanza, Montreal forward Guillaume Latendresse got the puck past Smith after two swipes at it from the edge of the crease.
From there, the goaltenders took control, snuffing out any scoring chances that arose. And several did. Artyukhin blasted a slap shot at Price from the right faceoff circle at 15:40 that was gathered in; Malone rebounded a shot from St. Louis and flipped a backhand over an open net; Robert Lang broke in alone on the Lightning net at 6:35 but Smith stayed with him and Lang’s shot went wide; with less than 2 minutes to play, it was Artyukhin again breaking in from the left wing but firing his chance wide. Finally, with 5 seconds remaining, Andrei Kostitsyn skated down the right wing and his shot from just outside the faceoff circle rang the post to Smith’s left.
The scoring chances kept coming in the overtime period and so did the remarkable saves. Tampa Bay had four shots and again it was Artyukhin with the best opportunity as he cut across the crease but Price stacked the pads and got his skate on the shot. At the other end, Smith made the save of the night when he dove across the crease to rob Maxim Lapierre with 1:38 remaining in the extra period.
In the ensuing shootout, Jussi Jokinen, leading off, gave the Lightning the advantage when he cruised toward Price, stopped, hesitated, deked and scored.
“I’ve been working on that move lately,” Jokinen said. “It gives me options to go in any direction.”
Montreal came right back as Alex Kovalev evened the proceedings with a backhand goal over Smith’s glove.
After Prospal and Vincent Lecavalier each were stopped by Price, it fell to Lapierre to beat Smith and drop the Tampa Bay shootout record to 2-7.
Smith finished with 29 saves on 30 shots and Price faced 21 shots, stopping 20 of them.
For Montreal, the win was their third straight victory on the road, while Tampa Bay will seek to keep a four game point streak alive as they move on to Washington for a New Year’s game against the Capitals.
“We have a little bit of a streak and we’re getting some points,” interim coach Rick Tocchet said. “But we need the two points bad. Really bad.”
They came close.
Martin St. Louis