Montreal 1 Tampa Bay 3 (Bell Centre)
Uninspired. That's the single word that comes to mind to summarize the Canadiens' effort in tonight's game.
How could that be? The Habs were coming off a big win over Boston on Thursday night. It was a game that they probably didn't deserve to win but for the brilliant play of Carey Price. Tonight the team had a chance to repay the favor.
They did not.
The game summary will show that the Canadiens outshot the Lightning 37-to-21, including 15-to-4 in the third period. I suppose that's why I slotted Bolts goaltender Antero Niittymaki in the third star slot. But as I write, I wonder if he needed to be there at all. Because what the game summary won't tell you is that very few of the Canadiens' 37 shots were good scoring chances.
Tonight's game summary also shows the Habs with a respectable 17 hits versus the Lightning's 23. But the Canadiens were getting knocked off the puck in all zones.
Given the way his team was playing, Price needed to be spectacular to have a chance to win. But tonight,he couldn't make up for the miscues of his teammates.
Shots after the first period may suggest a rather even play. But after a good start, the Canadiens were outshot 10-to-2 in the final 13 minutes.
The Canadiens had trouble clearing Tampa Bay forwards from in front of the net. On the Lightning's first goal, Ryan Malone was able to stand among three Habs and score after Price made two good saves.
Alex Tanguay scored his first career goal against the Canadiens to make it 2-0 after Price failed to steer a rebound to the corner and Roman Hamrlik lost coverage.
The third Tampa goal was scored in the last two minutes of the second period and resulted from some soft play in the Lightning's end. Coach Jacques Martin assigned blame to Guillaume Latendresse and Maxim Lapierre. The pair didn't see the ice in the third period.
"When we shortened the bench, I thought we've got to win some battles and get some production and I went with the people who were willing to go to war," said Martin.
Tomas Plekanec was the target of Vincent Lecavalier all night. Plekanec took the punishment (some penalty-worthy, yet uncalled) and played a good game. He finished at 79 percent in the faceoff circle.
In the second period, Plekanec was joined by Andrei Kostitsyn and yet another new linemate, Ryan White. Kostitsyn got the biggest ovation of the night when he destroyed two Lightning players on the same sequence while racing for a loose puck.
A disappointing game for all Habs fans which resulted in a few unanswered questions.
The fact is that the Canadiens have only scored one goal in each of their last two games. They were fortunate to win one of the games due to Price. Is Martin's system hampering the offense?
After a day or two of practise, will Jay Leach be a stop-gap measure until Ryan O'Byrne and Hal Gill are ready to return? Because Marc-Andre Bergeron is just not getting it done in his own zone.
And will Martin assign White to one of his top six forward positions for Tuesday's game or will he finally relent and admit it's time for Sergei Kostitsyn to rejoin the team?
Marie-Anne Fiset's rendition of the anthems left ears bleeding and most wishing for a quick return by Charles Prevost-Linton.
Gomez, Gionta, Cammalleri
Plekanec, Lapierre, Latendresse
Metropolit, Moen, Pacioretty
Pyatt, Andrei Kostitsyn, White
Carey Price starts in goal for the Canadiens; Antero Niittymaki for the Lightning.
scratches: Chipchura, Stewart, Leach, D'Agostini (concussion), Laraque (upper body), Gill (leg), Markov (ankle), O'Byrne (knee)
Victor Hedman did not play for Tampa Bay.
Rocket's three stars
1. Ryan Malone
2. Tomas Plekanec
3. Antero Niittymaki
(photo credit: AP)