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The trend and the outlier; Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens game 5 preview

The Lightning face a must-win situation... for the Montreal Canadien who have only won once against the Lightning since October 2014.

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Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Where:  Bell Centre, Montréal, Quebec
When: 7 PM EDT | Tickets: Check availability
Media: NBC Sports Net (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: All Habs, Eyes on the Prize

An interesting number to take in from the series up to this point that shows the series as closer than the results so far, it's the goals differential between the two clubs. The Tampa Bay Lightning leads the Montreal Canadiens 12-10.

A difference to point out is that before game 4, the difference was 10-4, with the lop-sided victory by the Lightning in game 2 (6-2) not coming on the heels of back-to-back games. It wasn't a must-win, make-it-or-break-it situation; it also didn't feature the Canadiens switching Carey Price for Dustin Tokarski in a face-saving move.

The series has been consistent in its polar-opposites fashion with the respective final scores of each game being 2-1, 6-2, 2-1, and 6-2. It's hard to judge if we should expect more of the same tonight (a close fought game with a tight final score would be the consistency-following outcome) or we'll get a true outlier game (another lop-sided affair but also perhaps a shutout of the opposition) and who is going to be the team that comes out the victor of that one. Montreal is in its must-win place again while the Lightning has to rebound after the porous effort at the Amalie on Thursday night.

Another truth not to be ignored is game 4 is an outlier on the season series between the clubs; it was the ninth game between the two that finally gave the Canadiens a victory against Tampa Bay in the 2014-15 season series. While P.K. Subban and the Montreal media are painting game 4 as the big momentum shift of the series, the proof will be in the pudding tonight - and the momentum shift has to be grander than the series. The Lightning's ability to get by Les Habs since October has been a frustration haunting Montreal.

And it automatically gets erased after one victory? No, that's not how it works. Yeah, the two teams will play their asses off tonight and the likelihood is that it'll be a close final... Yet things didn't go to 0-0 suddenly or 1-0. While this author likes to cite the reset each series in the playoffs renders, and also how the regular season results don't mean squat at this point - so you can call me a hypocrite if you want... Or admit that Montreal is still in the more daunting situation, even if they are playing in the comfort of home tonight.

Something to debate from the Tampa Bay end of things is how the lineup will be fashioned going into this contest; does Jon Cooper go back to the 11-forward / 7-defensemen roster split, bringing back Nikita Nesterov in the process? Or does Coop go with a 12 / 6 split? Evidence indicates that one thing that's certain is Jonathan Drouin will be a scratch tonight; he and defenseman Mark Barberio were last on the ice during an optional morning skate at Bell Centre.

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