canadien tbay galchThe Tampa Bay Lightning took full advantage of another slow Canadiens offensive start and a couple of fortuitous bounces to skate away with a 4-2 win Monday night at St. Petersburg.

The Lightning opened up a 3-0 lead by the 7th minute of the second period and then withstood a late comeback effort to add an empty net goal. Steven Stamkos scored two power play goals, the second into an empty net. Valterri Filppula and Victor Hedman also scored for the Lightning who have won four of four meetings against the Habs this season and eight straight in the regular season dating back to last year.

For the Canadiens it was Tomas Plekanec and P.A. Parenteau.

Shots on goal were even at 34. The Molson Cup three stars were Stamkos, Hedman and Plekanec.

Adding It Up –

Bad Mathematics – Playing 23 minutes of a 60 minute game simply wasn’t enough. Certainly not against a team of Tampa Bay’s quality. For most of the first 47 minutes the Canadiens were anything but the well disciplined team that gave them a 3-1 win over the Islanders on Saturday night. They seemed to lose whatever poise they had to start the game when Valtteri Filppula’s shot deflected off a sprawling Andrei Markov past Carey Price. That was followed by Max Pacioretty’s blunder (more on that ahead).  Then Tom Gilbert left Jeff Petry to fend for himself on the third, and what turned out to be the winning goal by Victor Hedman.

The ‘Pacioretty Blunder’ – You may have noticed in recent days the Canadiens while on offense, often pass the puck back to their defense if they don’t like what they see from the opposition in the neutral zone. It’s a way of maintaining puck possession. The Soviets used to drive their opposition crazy by using the tactic in the 60’s and 70’s. So with Tampa already leading 1-0 and the teams playing 4-on-4, Andrei Markov sent his pass out to Max Pacioretty at centre ice creating the perfect storm of events. Pacioretty looking for a better zone-entry setup decided to buy time by sending the puck back to Markov. But Markov was already heading for the bench on a change leaving Steven Stamkos as the only player left in the Canadiens end and both Tom Gilbert and Jeff Petry scrambling off the bench on the change. Stamkos made no mistake with the breakaway. Missed communication…..or a blunder?  Take your pick. (You can see the play below)

Breathing Some Life – The comeback, such as it was, started when Tomas Plekanec on a power play midway through the second period had his pass intended for Galchenyuk go off Bishop’s stick at 11:10. Still, the first time there was any sustained return to life from the Canadiens offense came during back to back shifts from the Plekanec and then Eller lines through the final 3 ½ minutes of the period.

Carey Price, Victor HedmanThat Said – In this day and age hardly anyone blows a two goal lead in the third period no matter what kind of effort by the opponent and certainly not against Tampa who’s record is 30-0-2 in that circumstance. The Canadiens did get one more from Parenteau 34 seconds into the third and that kept a few people in front of their TV sets. P.K. Subban hit a goal post 2 minutes later but that was as close as it got.

Last Hope Gone – With 2 ½ minutes left Tom Gilbert let a shot go and shattered his stick. As Gilbert headed for the bench J.T. Brown broke out chased by Lars Eller. Eller put the clutch on Brown from behind and took a penalty leaving the Canadiens shorthanded for all but the final 22 seconds of the game. Should he have taken the penalty to prevent the scoring chance or let Carey Price deal with it and hope no goal was scored? Good question for the second-guessers. Eller’s reflex action was to prevent the scoring chance. The result was to end whatever chance the Canadiens had to tie the game.

Momentum Changer – For the third time in the last three games the Canadiens were beneficiary of a double-minor penalty. This one came in the third minute to Brenden Morrow, who highsticked Brian Flynn and put him out of the game. The Canadiens power play, being what it almost always is, managed only two shots over the four minutes and the tone was set for the night.

canadiens tbay bishopThe Reality – This was hardly a blowout win like we had last October. The Canadiens could have had a little more luck on the bounces in the first period and they did come back to make it a one-goal game. Shots on goal were even, although that is a legitimately maligned statistic when one of the teams is playing with a multi-goal lead. The Corsi possession numbers were almost even and scoring chances were only 20-18 for the Lightning. And the Canadiens still lead the Atlantic Division thanks to that game in hand they continue hold over Tampa.

Also Worth Mentioning – ……Alexei Emelin made his return after a 19 day absence. He showed a little rust but didn’t commit anything egregious in almost 20 minutes ice time. Greg Pateryn, his partner for part of the game managed just under 11 minutes without incident.   …..Therrien juggled his top two lines in the third period, moving Galchenyuk over to play with Desharnais and Gallagher and Pacioretty to Plekanec/Parenteau. It seemed to liven things up. …… Pacioretty was stopped on a breakaway and had five shots on goal. Parenteau along with his goal had two great scoring chances. …..Brandon Prust was in two fights with AHLer Mike Angelidis and also picked up a goaltender interference penalty for pasting Ben Bishop against the back boards.

Moving On – The 15th of 16 back-to-back series this season at Florida Panthers Tuesday night. The Canadiens have lost both ends of the back-to-back series four times. In three of them the second game loss was in a shootout.

In Case You Missed It – Pacioretty Sets Up Stamkos