This was a game that's been circled on a lot of calendars for a very long time and it certainly lived up to the hype in terms of intensity as the Lightning raced out to a 3-0 lead and then held on for dear life to come away with the win, their fourth in four meetings between the two clubs. As a result, they currently find themselves tied with the Canadiens on top of the division.
"It was a big game. We wanted to take care of home ice. We obviously weren't happy with the way we played against Winnipeg. I thought we did a good job of coming out tonight, a good start, a really good first half of the game." - Lightning goalie Ben Bishop
The Lightning faced a serious test early when Brenden Morrow went to the box for four minutes on a High Sticking call at 2:21, Montreal center Brian Flynn was injured on the play, and did not return. The Lightning penalty kill was up to the challenge, allowing only three shots during the extended penalty, one of which required a great glove slave by goaltender Ben Bishop.
"We had our legs tonight. Right out of the gate, I thought we started strong. To kill off that double minor early and that save that Bish (Bishop) made on Galchenyuk... we kind of took it from there." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper
Special teams came through again when the Lightning scored their first goal on the power play at 10:07, with Valtteri Filppula scoring thanks to a deflection off of the Canadiens Andrei Markov. Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos picked up the official assists.
At 15:58, a terrible giveaway by Montreal's Max Pacioretty gave Stamkos the puck all alone in the Canadiens zone, where he blasted a slapshot past Carey Price.
The period ended with Tampa Bay up 2-0.
The lead stretched to 3-0 at 2:45 of the second on a goal from Victor Hedman, assisted by Alex Killorn and Ryan Callahan,
At 6:39, Brandon Prust reacquainted himself with Ben Bishop (they fought in Montreal back on January 9, 2014, a game the Lightning won 2-1 in overtime) when Proust appeared to leave his feet to hit Bishop from behind while he was handling the puck behind the net. Prust received two minutes for Goaltender Interference. Prust had fought Mike Angelidis in the first period and would go on to fight him again in the third.
In addition, Vladislav Namestnikov fought Brendan Gallagher at the 9:40 mark of the second. Each team would eventually accumulate eight penalties for 25 minutes on the night.
At 11:10, Montreal got on the board thanks to a power play goal by Tomas Plekanec with assists from P.K. Subban and Markov.
The second intermission arrived with Tampa Bay holding a 3-1 lead.
The lead shrunk to one very early in the third when a turnover by Bishop behind his net allowed Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau to score at just :34 in. He was assisted by Plekanec on the play.
With virtually the entire period to collect the equalizer, Montreal increased their pressure. The Lightning were able to survive and relief finally arrived when the Canadiens' Lars Eller was called for Holding at 17:38.
On the ensuing power play, but at five-on-five with Price pulled for an extra skater, Stamkos locked up the win with the empty net, power play goal at 18:55. He got assistance on the play from Namestnikov and Jason Garrison.
"It was definitely a good response after a game where we didn't play very well against Winnipeg, so definitely proud of the guys for coming out." - Stamkos
The season-long six-game homestand continues Friday when the Lightning will host another Atlantic foe with designs on the division title, the Detroit Red Wings.
- This was the fourth of five regular season meetings between the Lightning and Canadiens, and the last at Amalie Arena. They'll face off once more in Montreal in two weeks (March 30). The Lightning lead the season series 4-0 and have outscored the Candiens 16-5.
- After tomorrow night down in Sunrise, the Canadiens will have spent their remaining game-in-hand over the Lightning and both teams will have played 71 games this season.
- Stamkos tied and moved ahead of Brad Richards for third place in points scored all time for the Lightning with 491.
- Stamkos reaches the mark in his 481st game.
- The Lightning have not lost three games in a row since the period between March 2nd and 10th last year, during which they lost five straight.
- Montreal defenseman Nathan Beaulieu was a last minute scratch, due to having the flu.
- Of the Lightning's remaining 11 games, 10 are against Eastern Conference opponents and nine are against teams in the Atlantic Division. Six are at home and five are away.
- The Lightning honored Joe Versaggi as the 35th Lightning Community Hero of the season during the first period of tonight's game. Versaggi, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to the Tampa General Hospital Foundation. Tonight's donation also marks the Community Heroes $8-million benchmark, since it started nearly four seasons ago. Tonight's Lightning Community Hero is a burn survivor who uses his tragic experience to provide comfort and support to other burn patients in the Tampa Bay community. Versaggi had been in a plane crash that eroded in flames and was taken to the hospital. After five weeks of being in a coma, he awoke to learn that 35 percent of his body had been burned and that his wife did not survive the plane crash. He recovered through the care he received in the hospital, and now volunteers his time at Tampa General Hospital providing peer support to burn patients. He volunteers approximately 30 to 35 hours a week and drives the courtesy shuttle at least one day out of the week. Versaggi has received recognition on multiple occasions from local media in the Tampa Bay area for his volunteer contributions at the Tampa General Hospital Regional Burn Center.