The Montreal Canadians continued their surge, winning their fourth straight game last evening in defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2. The sell-out crowd was very pro-Canadian at the Saint Pete Times Forum in Tampa Florida and Carey Price did not disappoint the “Snowbirds” in stopping 43 Lightning shots.
Many Canadian citizens or” Snowbirds,” travel south to live in Florida for much of the winter and early spring. Price shut out the Florida Panthers on Thursday in front of a similar crowd of Habs fans in south Florida, making 30 saves. Price has now stopped 110 of the last 113 shots.
Tampa, losers of two straight and participants in four consecutive contests that ended with a 2-1 final score, played very sloppy in their own end and looked undisciplined at times, giving the puck away to the Habs 16 times in the contest.
The Lightning fell behind early, trailing by two goals after the opening period. Considering the Bolts have failed to score more than two goals in seven of their last eight games, a two-goal first period deficit, with the hot Carey Price in net for Montreal, seemingly sealed Tampa’s fate after just one period of play.
Tampa would get their chances on Price as they fired 45 shots at the games number two star. The Lightning allowed just 23 Montreal shots but Lightning starting goalie Dwayne Roloson could keep just 19 out of the net. Three of the four Habs goals were scored as result of defensive breakdowns by the Lightning.
Montreal’s first goal came because of one of those breakdowns around the Tampa net. The Bolts were going to be called for a Steven Stamkos interference penalty but Hal Gill scored on a slap shot before the Bolts could touch the puck. All five Lightning players had converged on two Canadian forwards around the net, leaving Gil all alone at the point.
Montreal’s Brian Gionta managed to get the puck back to Gill despite being held up by Stamkos. Gill teed the puck up between the blue line and the left circle and slapped one past Bolts starting goalie Dwayne Roloson. The puck beat Rolo five hole as it appeared to bounce off the inside of his leg and into the net.
Gill had not scored a goal all season long until he hit the sunshine state. He tallied his first of the year against the Florida Panthers on Thursday and notched his second of the season against the Bolts. In fact, prior to Thursday, it has been a Gretzky number (99) of games since he last scored a goal. Ironically, Gill’s last goal prior to Thursday night’s marker was New Year’s Eve 2009 against the Panthers.
The Canadians came into the contest with a top ten power play unit in the NHL. They would add to the unit’s success with two extra man helpers against Tampa Bay last evening.
Only Roloson saved the Bolts from being down by three goals headed into the first intermission. With less than five minutes remaining in the first, Roloson made a great forward diving save off an Andrea Kostitsyn shot. Kostitsyn found the puck in front of the Bolts net after two Tampa defenders turned the puck over.
“I’m not surprised, I’m shocked by our slow start,” Lightning Coach Guy Boucher said. “Our urgency level was very low and theirs was very high. The teams that are chasing us right now seem to have more urgency.” (nhl.com)
The Lightning gave the home crowd or at least the Bolts fans in attendance, some hope by cutting the Habs lead in half just 1:25 into the middle stanza. Dominic Moore scored after stuffing home a Pavel Kubina shot on the power play. The Bolts power play has resembled a power outage recently. Despite the PP marker, Tampa is now just 3-for-20 in recent games with the extra man. Moore’s goal with came with just two seconds remaining on the power play.
Montreal regained the two-goal advantage on a power play goal, as the NHL’s leading scorer, Steven Stamkos served his second straight penalty of the period. Montreal’s Max Pacioretty, the games number one star, knocked in what would be the game winning goal, when he collected a rebound from the side of the Bolts net after a Thomas Plekanec slap shot deflected off Roloson.
Stamkos was called for two penalties last night and would have sat for a third in the first period but the Habs scored during the delayed call. He had more penalties last night than he has scored goals recently. Stamkos has just one goal in his last 11 games and appears tired on his shifts. His penalties were interference (delayed uncalled), tripping and hooking. Those are penalties usually taken when a player is out of gas or clearly beaten on a play.
Max Pacioretty would score his second straight goal of the game and number 14 on the season after Scott Gomez created a two-on-one after taking the puck from a gassed Stamkos in his own offensive zone. Gomez skated away from Stamkos up an along the left wing, finding Pacioretty ten feet inside the Habs blue-line. Pacioretty’s wrist shot beat Roloson for the 4-1 lead.
Lightning team Captain Vinny Lecavalier continued his hot streak, scoring his seventh goal in his last 11 games. Over the same 11 game stretch, Lecavalier has 13 points. Lecavalier
Last night’s game was a poorly played contest by Boucher’s Bolts. Tampa seemed lethargic at times on shifts, getting beat in the corners and to loose pucks. While they managed to fire 45 shots, they rarely screened Price and failed to crash the net on many occasions.
Their struggling power play must be turned around. For the second straight game, Tampa squandered an opportunity to score with a two-man advantage.
Tampa had a five-on- three for a minute and a half against Montreal and in the loss to Boston on Thursday, had almost a full two minutes (1:53) with two extra men, and failed to score on both. That is Three-minutes and 24-seconds with a two-man advantage. The result is no goals on just three shots.
The Lightning could find themselves in second place for the first time since December-22 when the Washington Capitals come to town on Monday night. The Caps trail the Bolts by just one point and play in South Florida today against the Panthers.
“You battle a lot of adversity throughout the year and right now we’re in the middle of it,” Lightning forward Martin St. Louis said. “We’ve been facing adversity all year. We knew this wasn’t going to be easy. We’ve been grinding it out all year.”(nhl.com)
The Capitals recently acquired veterans Jason Arnott from New Jersey, Dennis Wideman from Florida and claimed Marco Sturm off waivers from the LA Kings. All three have stepped up to give Washington a boost as Arnott assisted on the game tying goal Tuesday night and scored the game winner on Thursday for Washington.
The Caps have won three in a row and are continuing to play stingy defense in the process, something that is not good for a team, like the Bolts who have been struggling to score goals. The Lightning can get back on course with a win Monday against Washington but a loss could drop them three points behind the Caps who have won the Southeast division the past three seasons.
“The danger is to get out of the course, “Boucher said. “The last thing we want to do is panic. When you start panicking, you sink lower.”