At this point, the Lightning have their playoff position locked up at second in the Atlantic Division; that was solidified with the win against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday evening. The Bolts will have a rematch of last season's first round playoff matchup with the Detroit Red Wings (who slipped into the playoffs for the 25th consecutive year).
So, it's safe to say there was not a whole lot to play for at this point. But that doesn't mean the Bolts wanted to end the season on a sour note against a team that seems to be quickly becoming a heated divisional rival.
But in terms of bad luck for the Lightning, this game seemed to have it all - lots of penalties, an injured player in Tyler Johnson, a reversed goal.
It is also important to note that the Montreal Canadiens managed a regular season sweep of the Bolts, despite missing the playoffs.
This one started off with a bit of a groan, as Andrei Vasilevskiy mishandled the puck behind his net. Brendan Gallagher swarmed in and flipped the puck back to Alex Galchenyuk, who flipped it underneath the crossbar of the empty net on his backhand. That goal came relatively early at 5:11. At that point, the Bolts still hadn't gotten their first shot on goal; that wouldn't come until nearly seven minutes into the period.
Things really took a turn for the worst when Montreal defenseman Greg Pateryn delivered a nasty hit after the whistle on Tyler Johnson. Johnson went heavily into the boards behind the net, seeming to hit his head. Pateryn was given a game misconduct and a five-minute major for boarding.
"There's no place for that," head coach Jon Cooper said of the hit after the game in an eerily short media scrum. "I'm at a loss for words."
As head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan assisted him off the ice, Ondrej Palat was busy responding to the hit. A minor penalty would result from that, and it looked like the Bolts would have a full three minute power play after playing 4-on-4 for two minutes.
While playing 4-on-4, Montreal took advantage of the extra space - and the fact that Matt Carle was caught up ice. Streaking down the ice, Lars Eller flipped the puck to Tomas Plekanec, who was wide open and able to slide the puck past a sprawling Vasilevskiy. The goal, which was scored at 16:27 and put the Canadiens up 2-0, was also assisted by Alexei Emelin.
The following three-minute power play was largely foiled by the Habs, was interrupted when Alex Killorn took his second of three penalties, and one of the team's six, on the evening. If there is something positive to take away from this game, it is that the Lightning penalty kill was very strong on a night when they could not stay out of the box.
The second period began much like the first, with the Montreal Canadiens adding to their lead only 27 seconds in. Max Pacioretty skated in to the right circle and fired the puck far side over Vasilevskiy's shoulder while he was being screened by Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison. The assists on the goal went to Alex Galchenyuk and Andrei Markov.
The lead was pushed to 4-0 at 3:44 when Alex Galchenyuk blasted a puck over Vasilevskiy's shoulder once again. His 30th goal of the season was assisted by Max Pacioretty and Andrei Markov.
Signs of frustration by the Bolts were obvious midway through the second period, as Vladislav Namestnikov squared off with Paul Byron. Each went to the penalty box for five minutes.
After this fight, the Lightning would hold off the Canadiens through the rest of the second period and much of the third until Mike Blunden looked to get the Bolts on the board. Blunden skated in on Habs goaltender Mike Condon, fighting for position along with Montreal forward Brian Flynn. The puck slipped in past Condon, but after a coach's challenge, it was controversially ruled that Blunden pushed the goaltender into the net along with the puck.
Ondrej Palat would finally break Condon's shutout, though, at 6:33 of the third period. Palat slipped in past the defense untouched and fired it from a sharp angle near the goal line.
The Bolts again chipped away at the lead, with Jonathan Drouin increasing his goal streak in the NHL to two games and his overall goal streak between the Bolts and Crunch to ten goals in ten games. The goal, which came at 13:00. Matt Carle had taken the puck around the net in a wraparound attempt. When Mike Condon got it with his pad, the puck bounced out, landing on Drouin's stick for an easy goal. The second assist went to Ondrej Palat.
This was the closest the Bolts would come, however, as Max Pacioretty added a goal into an empty net with six seconds remaining in the game.
Tampa Bay will have a little time off before beginning the postseason either Wednesday or Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings. While Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman are not expected to return for quite a while, it was speculated that Victor Hedman, Ryan Callahan and Nikita Kucherov only sat out as precaution.
- Alex Killorn took three penalties on the evening. Overall, the Canadiens received six power plays.
- Despite the slew of penalties, the Lightning were able to kill off five of the six.
- Matt Carle had the most ice time for the Bolts at 22:54.
- The Montreal Canadiens swept the Lightning in the regular season series.