Habs return home from successful trip to face Bolts
LIGHTNING (27-26-11) at CANADIENS (32-29-6)
Tampa Bay 5-5-0; Montreal 6-4-0
This is the fourth and final meeting of the regular season. The Lightning have the edge in the series, thanks to a 3-0 win in their most recent matchup on Jan. 27, with Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos scoring the goals. They also recorded a 3-1 victory on Nov. 7. The Canadiens took a 2-1 overtime victory on Dec. 30.
Montreal moved into seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 70 points after its comeback win in Anaheim on Sunday. While many would have counted the Canadiens out of the run, the "Sainte Flanelle" aren't letting up, having racked up six out of a possible eight points on their latest road trip. The Lightning are sitting in 11th with 65 points, four points out of a playoff berth.
Tampa won its first game back from the Olympic break on Saturday and snapped a five-game losing streak with a big 6-2 win over the Thrashers. That helped goaltender Antero Niittymaki, who made 29 saves, remain perfect against Atlanta with an all-time record of 17-0-0. Trade deadline acquisition Teddy Purcell scored his first with the Bolts, connecting on a penalty shot, while Stamkos netted his 39th and 40th goals of the season. St. Louis, Lecavalier and Paul Szczechura also scored.
"The sense of urgency was there and some of the little plays were there," coach Rick Tocchet said. "The effort from some of the guys was special. They’re special guys – Stamkos, Marty, Vinny played well again tonight -- all the guys fought."
The Canadiens were down three goals after the first period against the Ducks on Sunday, chasing Carey Price
from the crease. If Habs fans turned off the TV at this point, they would have missed quite the finish. Tomas Plekanec
scored in the second and Brian Gionta
and Andrei Markov
found the back of the net in the final 1:50 of the third to force overtime. Plekanec then solved Jonas Hiller in the fourth round of the shootout for the 4-3 victory. Jaroslav Halak made 21 saves after relieving Price, who allowed the three goals on 11 shots.
"It was huge for us … we fought hard," Plekanec said. "I think we deserved it with that third period. We played well and we pushed them hard. That's a huge win for us. Hopefully we can keep it going. We're in a playoff race.
With his two goals on Saturday, Stamkos extended his points streak to 16 games, with 15 goals and 14 assists. Stamkos' linemate, Steve Downie, is riding a 10-game points streak with 13 points. Not to be outdone by the youngsters, St. Louis has seven points in his last three games and Lecavalier has had three goals in his last two.
After a bit of a scoring slump, Plekanec may have found his touch again in Montreal's last two games with two goals as well as Sunday's shootout winner. Habs center Scott Gomez
has had five points in his last three games with an average of five shots on goal.
Tampa defenseman David Hale is out with a broken right leg. St. Louis is questionable for Tuesday after having hit his head when drilled into the boards by Atlanta's Clarke MacArthur late in third period. The Montreal native did not participate in practice on Monday, but the St. Petersburg Times is reporting that he trained on a bicycle without problems. … Habs defenseman Paul Mara (upper body) is still questionable for Tuesday, while Mike Cammalleri
(right MCL) and Marc-André Bergeron (knee) are out with their injuries. Center Maxim Lapierre
will be serving his third of a four-game suspension for a late hit on San Jose's Scott Nichol.
The Bolts are 5-0-3 in their last eight games against Montreal.
"He's a special player. I talked to Mario [Lemieux] earlier and he even came up to me and said 'This kid can play.' Mario is probably one of the best players ever to play the game, so for him to say that, that's saying something." -- Tocchet on Stamkos.
Last stretch to the playoffs
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