Matinee games sure are weird, aren't they?
A tightly contested match between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning was overshadowed by a second period incident between Bolts goaltender Ben Bishop -- starting this game after sitting out the back half of the last content versus the Ottawa Senators after being hit in the head by Nikita Kucherov's skate -- got into a fight with Habs forward Brandon Prust during a TV timeout.
The teams played to a scoreless tie in the first period where the Bolts carried the balance of play, outshooting the Habs 10-6. Like the Sens in recent games, the Habs have an elite defenseman -- P.K. Subban -- and they really took advantage of the other pairs when Subban was off the ice, as they did with Ottawa and Erik Karlsson. The first also saw a scrap between J.P. Cote and Brandon Prust, your standard failed Nikita Kucherov breakaway and resulting penalty shot attempt, and Radko Gudas pissing off the opposition:
Holy crap that's a dirty hit by Gudas, who pulls that crap every single game.— Andrew Berkshire (@AndrewBerkshire) February 1, 2014
The second period finally saw a goal when an odd-man shorthanded rush started by J.T. Brown ended up in an own-goal by PK Subban and a 1-0 lead for the Lightning. Subban reached out to deny a net-front area pass by Nate Thompson and made contact with the puck, sending it behind Carey Price. The goal was credited to Thompson with assists to Brown and Victor "Norris" Hedman. (#VictorNorris).
The second TV timeout of the period was when the madness happened. For some inexplicable reason, Brandon Prust skated down to Bishop's net to chirp a bit at him. Bishop appears to shrug it off, but Prust clearly ups the ante a bit because Bishop then comes steaming in on him. Prust carefully juts his stick out, making contact with Bishop in his "delicate area", which escalated their interaction from "conversation" to "full-on fight" rather quickly.
The refs and players from both benches came flying in, and with the dust settled, George Parros and Radko Gudas got 10 minute misconducts, both goalies got 2 minute minors for leaving the crease, and Prust got the extra penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Puzzlingly, the home feed didn't have a camera angle facing Bishop, instead opting for the one high and behind the net. From than angle, it was next to impossible to see Prust catch Bishop with his stick. The SunSports feed showed this happening as the two players came together. That didn't stop some folks from genius comments like this one:
Prust should bolt out of the box and run Bishop with the puck nowhere near.— Andrew Berkshire (@AndrewBerkshire) February 1, 2014
Following all that, the Lightning didn't get much done on their power play and entered the second intermission with the tenuous one-goal lead.
Even with Montreal pressing for a game-tier, the Lightning kept to their game plan, controlling play for long stretches in the third and outshooting the Habs 16-8. The only shot that found twine came off Daniel Briere's stick, however, as he found a soft spot on the left wing on a 4on4 rush and snapped one past Bishop to tie the game.
The Habs pressed their advantage following the Briere goal, drawing a late penalty on Eric Brewer, but the Lightning managed some more shorthanded offense and held the Habs off the board in regulation to secure at least a point. That left 55 seconds of 4on3 left on the penalty to Brewer to start overtime.
Subban, who is admittedly an offensive force, was dominant in OT. With the refs' whistles jammed down in their pockets, Subban freewheeled all around the ice, through the neutral zone, to the front of the net, and forced a couple saves by Bishop. During the 4-on-3, Nate Thompson marked Subban man-to-man, with the other 2 penalty killers covering the 3 other Montreal skaters. At 4v4, Victor Hedman was matched up 1-on-1 against Subban in a show of tremendous respect from Lightning coach Jon Cooper.
The Habs came up empty, however, and with under a minute remaining, the Lightning led a rush the other way with a now-tired Subban still on the ice. He and his defense partner Josh Gorges appeared to both get a little lost in coverage as an Alex Killorn shot dribbled wide to Hedman at the side of the net who quickly found Nate Thompson in front for the game-winner, his second goal of the day.
- A random thought that didn't really fit above: why do players get assists on own-goals? Brown and Hedman made fine plays on Thompson's opener, sure, but the puck went in because of PK Subban. He directed it into his own net. When there's a clear own-goal situation like that, shouldn't the goal be unassisted? Not that Victor Norris minds.
- Kucherov skated as a "center" with Valterri Filppula out with a lower body injury but took zero faceoffs and was a "center" in name only. Credit to Jon Cooper though for balancing his lineup missing his top two pivots, as the Lightning were not exposed at all with the forwards they did have available.
- As a result of the Filppula injury, Tyler Johnson skated 24:18 (which is a lot) and had a couple nice chances, some shorthanded even (as usual). He finished with zero points but was still handed first star by the local media for some reason.
- Briere's goal came with just 8:41 of total time on ice in this game.
- Victor Hedman added 2 more assists to his season tally and skated a whopping 28:33, including over 5 minutes on the power play and over 3 on the penalty kill. He's always been an offensive force at 5v5 but if he continues to get this type of PP work he is going to legitimately challenge for the Norris Trophy. #VictorNorris is not a joke.
- I joke around a lot with Andrew Berkshire a lot, but he's a very good writer and does a fine job managing the SB Nation Habs Eyes on the Prize blog. Give him a follow @AndrewBerkshire but if you're pretty emotional, maybe mute him before Habs/Bolts games. Just a suggestion.
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