Carey Price will almost certainly win the Vezina trophy this year as the NHL's top goaltender.
You can make a very strong case that he deserves to be the league's MVP too.
The Montreal Canadiens' netminder put together an outstanding 61 minutes of goaltending, but ultimately, it wouldn't be enough.
The game started off looking more like last spring's playoff series than earlier meetings between these clubs during regular season play; Montreal looked to fight fire with fire and counter Tampa Bay's speed/transition game with a more potent and quicker offensive attack right back. It worked for a while -- with new puck-mover Jeff Petry on the back-end alongside PK Subban, Andrei Markov, and Tom Gilbert, as the Habs forechecked aggressively and bottled up the Lightning through the first half of the first period.
Towards the end of the first frame, the Lightning finally started to test Price a bit and put pressure on the Habs down low. They built off that success in the second and third periods, routinely generating long, tiring shifts cycling and shooting and retrieving in Montreal's end: Jon Cooper hockey at its finest. Only a fantastic effort in net from Price -- squaring to each shot, reading plays, scrambling when necessary -- kept his team in it.
The Lightning finally broke through on something of a broken play in overtime; Tyler Johnson embarrassed Tom Gilbert on a wide rush, chipping the puck to himself through the defender's legs, and chased the puck down low around the net before centering it looking for Nikita Kucherov. The puck ricocheted of Gilbert and behind Price to end the game with a thud for the 21,286 fans at the Bell Centre.
- The win is great, but finishing it in overtime (rather than a shootout) is better. It puts the Lightning one point back of the Canadiens with the Habs still holding a game in hand -- but gives the Lightning a 4-game edge in ROW (regulation + overtime wins), a critical tiebreaker. The Bolts are, currently, sitting pretty with regards to tiebreakers vs. the Habs considering it is also now impossible for Montreal to win the season series.
- Ondrej Palat left with a lower body injury after the 1st period and did not return to the game. No immediate update was available following the game. Jonathan Drouin took some shifts with Tyler Johnson-Nikita Kucherov in his place, and it seems less and less likely that Vlad Namestnikov will be returned to the Syracuse Crunch this season, even with JT Brown expected back soon.
- The final shot count was 36-19, the final Corsi/SAT count was 59-36, and War On Ice had scoring chances at 24-12, doubling up the Habs. By any metric or eye test you can imagine, the Bolts controlled the game. Carey Price was the difference, until he wasn't any more.
- Not to take anything away from Ben Bishop, who faced substantially fewer shots but at least a few very good scoring chances, stopping them all en route to a 19 save shutout. He certainly looks healthier than he did at this point last season which bodes well for an impending playoff run that might see Tampa face Montreal yet again.
- Mark Barberio was the only Lightning skater who finished at sub-50% for Corsi/SAT (47.83%). One has to wonder if he won't be soon replaced by a mended Matt Carle.
- Have to wonder what Montreal head coach Michel Therrien is doing dressing a guy like Dale Weise and healthy scratching P.A. Parenteau. The Habs were dominated all over the ice but Parenteau adds at least a little bit of offense and creativity, elements they displayed very little of against the Lightning.