TAMPA (NHL.com) -- The Tampa Bay Lightning got the better of the Montreal Canadiens on a night when both teams took a step towards meeting again in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Rookie Tyler Johnson scored a tiebreaking shorthanded goal at 12:41 of the third period and the Lightning beat the Canadiens 3-1 on Tuesday to wrap up their first playoff berth since 2011.
However, with the Washington Capitals' 5-0 loss to the Dallas Stars and the New Jersey Devils' 3-2 shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Canadiens also clinched their sixth playoff appearance in seven seasons despite not earning a point in the game.
The Lightning moved past the Canadiens into second place in the Atlantic Division with the victory. The teams are tied at 93 points, nine more than the Detroit Red Wings, but Tampa has six games left to play, one more than Montreal.
If indeed these two teams meet in the playoffs, which looks very likely, it promises to be a fast-paced, closely fought series judging by the four games these teams played in the regular season.
This was the first of the four that did not end 2-1, and that was only because Alex Killorn scored into an empty net with 44.3 seconds to play. It was Tampa Bay's third win in the season series and the first of the four games that did not go to overtime or a shootout.
Canadiens goaltender Carey Price and Tampa Bay counterpart Ben Bishop have been outstanding in all four games, combining to allow 10 goals in 254 minutes of play. Each was tremendous again Tuesday, with Bishop making 25 saves and Price stopping 30 shots.
Ryan Callahan scored his sixth goal in 14 games with the Lightning (42-25-9) after Brendan Gallagher opened the scoring for the Canadiens (43-27-7).
Johnson's winner came on a breakaway with Nate Thompson in the penalty box. He beat Price cleanly with a move to the backhand for his 23rd goal of the season and fifth on the penalty kill. Johnson moved into a tie with Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins for the League lead in shorthanded goals.
Lightning defenseman Michael Kostka was injured with 2:13 to play after taking a heavy hit from Canadiens defenseman Douglas Murray as he crossed the Montreal blue line. Kostka lay motionless on the ice for several minutes after the hit and the Lightning trainers called for a stretcher to come out on the ice, but Kostka eventually got up and skated slowly to the bench under his own power.
Murray was assessed a match penalty for an illegal check to the head.
The Canadiens jumped out to a 1-0 lead at 10:18 of the first period on Gallagher's 19th goal of the season. A Tampa Bay clearing attempt was misplayed at the half boards by Lightning forward Teddy Purcell, and the puck bounced right into the slot to Mike Weaver. The Montreal defenseman made a nifty play with the puck to get into a shooting position and put a backhander on Bishop, who kicked it out onto Gallagher's stick for the rebound goal.
The Lightning got even 9:19 into the second period on the power play when Callahan picked up a puck left for him by rookie Ondrej Palat before Palat fell and took out two members of the Canadiens in doing so. That cleared a path to the net down the right side for Callahan, who beat Price with a great backhand to the far corner.
The Lightning came very close to taking a 2-1 lead on two occasions before the end of the period.
The first came with about five minutes to play when Steven Stamkos and J.T. Brown broke in 2-on-1. Stamkos kept the puck and forced Price to make a difficult glove save before the rebound bounced out to Purcell in the slot. With Price on his knees Purcell shot high, only to have it stopped by Price's glove again.
With 11.7 seconds to play, Purcell appeared to beat Price on a shot from the slot with Brown screening the goaltender in front. But after the officials got together to discuss it was deemed that Brown interfered with Price and waved off the goal. Replays appeared to suggest Brown made contact with Price after the puck entered the net.
Purcell also hit the crossbar on a backhand from in tight about three minutes into the third period.