Rabid Habs

Lightning Strikes

Habs vs Lightning

“They’ve got a lot of threats, especially if you give them the man advantage. They’re going to capitalize. We think we’ve been pretty disciplined of late. We went over some clips this morning. That’s going to be a huge key against Tampa, to stay out of the box.” – Nathan Beaulieu

The Bell Centre was beaming as the Montreal Canadiens were on a six game win streak and would be looking for their seventh in a row on home ice during Tuesday night’s game. A seventh win, however, is something the Canadiens had not accomplished since the 2005-06 season when they rattled off eight straight wins between March 23 and April 6, 2006. Keeping the current winning streak alive, while it was very possible, would not be easy. The Tampa Bay Lightning sat tied with the Canadiens atop the Eastern Conference standings with 54 points, and they possess the league’s most potent offense with 134 goals on the year. The Lightning also have Tyler Johnson, who is leading the Lightning with 15 goals and 43 points this season, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov who have boast 39 points on the year, and Ben Bishop who has won 19 of his 29 outings this season and boasts a 2.37 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. After a bitter 7-1 loss in October against the Lightning, the Montreal Canadiens wouldn’t seem to need any more inspiration than they already had to dominate Tampa Bay. However, if the Canadiens wanted to play the best game they have played so far this season and get their seventh win, they would have to bring on the thunder and show the Lightning where the real storm is.

With only four minutes and 53 seconds left of the first period, Dale ‘The Dutch Gretzky’ Weise (assisted by Tomas Plekanec and Sergei Gonchar) slipped a beautiful shot past Ben Bishop which gave the Canadiens their first goal of the night and a solid lead. Both sides of the ice were putting the pressure on hard but with strong forwards and a solid defence, the Montreal Canadiens were making this period their own and the Habs kept their lead until the clock ran out.

Despite trying to keep the Lightning away from the Montreal zone, J.T. Brown found a way to put the puck past Carey Price which gave the Lightning their first goal of the game, bringing the second period to a tie with 16 minutes and 43 seconds left (assisted by Jonathan Drouin and Brian Boyle). The Canadiens were putting the pucks deep and trying to put the pressure on the forecheck, but surprisingly the Canadiens couldn’t seem to stop the Lightning from taking the lead. With nine minutes and 18 seconds left, Tyler Johnson (assisted by Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat) gave Tampa Bay their second goal of the night and the lead in the second period. The race was on as the Habs picked up the speed and were determined to end the second period tied with the Lightning. However, Tampa decided to out number Tom Gilbert, who was in the Tampa zone alone and Brett Connolly (assisted by Valtteri Filppula and Cedric Paquette) put one past Price, giving the Lightning a three to one lead with a minute and 44 seconds left. With a giant scramble around the Montreal net, the Lightning were able to slip one more puck in thanks to Ondrej Palat on the power play (assisted by Nikita Kucherov), leaving the second period with a three point advantage.

Max Pacioretty brought hope back from a nice little touch pass by Brendan Gallagher which led to a perfect bounce into the Tampa net, bringing the Canadiens up to two points with five minutes and one second into the third period. The Habs were trying to work their magic on the ice to bring their two points up to three by working on their speed and puck control. The Lightning, however, were making sure to give the Canadiens a hard time on the ice by trying to out number the strong forwards and putting pressure on and off the forecheck. This worked out well for the Lightning as they kept the Canadiens coming back to their own zone and despite hard efforts, the Montreal Canadiens just couldn’t get the pucks in the net and their win streak had finally come to a close.

Here are my thoughts on last night’s game:

  • I only really have one thought on last night’s game, and that is that the Montreal Canadiens kicked butt out there. That seems weird to say considering they lost again to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but if you look back on the last time the Habs faced Tampa, they played a hell of a lot better. We saw more pressure, more penalty kills, more puck control, more stick handling, and more of an effort to win. We also got to see ‘The Dutch Gretzky’ back in action because let’s be honest, we missed Dale Weise putting a nice puck behind a net. Even though their six game win streak is over and they didn’t get to experience their seventh win, the Montreal Canadiens made a concious effort to dominate the game and they really did despite their two to four loss. Now, my Habs friends, do not fret for the Canadiens face the Pens again on Saturday and there is a good chance for another win against ‘Sid The Kid’ and the gang.

The Montreal Canadiens face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday at 7:00pm.

Follow Jessica-Lyn on Twitter: @strucxtures