The Tampa Bay Lightning are blessed with the kind of speed that the Canadiens possess. . They came into Thursday night’s game well rested while the Canadiens had played a tough road game in Brooklyn against the Islanders on Wednesday. TheLightning tried to use there considerable speed to nullify the also formidable speed of the Canadiens. It didn’t work. The Canadiens responded by playing a near perfect defensive game of their own and skated away with a come-from-behind 3-1 win; their seventh victory in eight early season games. And more importantly jumped five ahead of Tampa in the early season standings.
The Lightning arrived in Montreal on early Tuesday morning after their win in Toronto Monday. They practiced here Tuesday and were waiting in their hotel as the Canadiens played a tough game against the Islanders at Brooklyn. It seemed obvious that the game plan would be jump on the weary Canadiens early. For some reason they didn’t. The Canadiens had five odd-man rushes in the first period but couldn’t score on Ben Bishop. So we were scoreless going to the second with shots on goal favouring the Canadiens 9-4.
“It was like playing hockey in a phone booth”. It’s a hackneyed phrase but describes the way the two teams battled each other through the second period. Forced turnover after forced turnover. It wasn’t much fun to watch unless you’re one of those hockey nerds or an NHL coach, They think this is the way the game should be played every night. From their considered vantage point defense and checking first, goals are secondary. And that’s the way it was working out until Victor Hedmon let a slap pass got that Alex Killorn deflect to make it 1-0 Tampa. The way things were going, it looked like one goal would be enough to win the game.
Just when I, and 22 thousand fans at the Bell Centre were ready to write the Canadiens power play off as another lost cause Andrei Markov sent a perfect pass to an open Alex Galchenyuk for a one timer that Bishop had no chance at. Four minutes later Andrew Shaw acted as a screen for Max Pacioretty and the Canadiens had the lead.
The final 9 ½ minutes were a nailbiter. The Canadiens had run out of the steam that got them the win against the Islanders and the lead against Tampa. The well-rested Lightning took it to the Canadiens through the final half of the third period and it was during that stretch that Carey Price earned his first star. The Lightning had the Canadiens pinned in their own end and poured nine shots at Price in a nine minute span. Torrey Mitchell scored into the empty net and it was over. One of those wins you point at as a ‘gut check’ .
MOVING THE PIECES
For the second consecutive night Michel Therrien experimented with his lines. He started the game the way he finished Wednesday night’s Islander game – Pacioretty switching down to play with Desharnais and Shaw with Paul Byron up at left wing with Galchenyuk and Gallagher. In the third period with the Canadiens not scoring and being effectively shut down suddenly Alexander Radulov was moved from right to left wing to play with Galchenyuk and Gallagher and Byron was switched from left wing to right wing with Plekanec and Lehkonen. Who’s to argue. The Canadiens came back to win.
…..I can’t say enough about the way the Mitchell/Danault/Flynn line is playing. This kind of game is made for their style of game but, as a unit they have been the Canadiens best for three games now.
….Only four members of the Canadiens failed to register a shot which talks to the balance the Canadiens have show through the first eight game.
….Winning key faceoffs continues to be an issue when the top line is on the Galcheyuk was 25 percent and Brendan Gallagher who takes draws on the right dot was 3 for 4. Tomas Plekanec won 12 of 18.
….The home stand continues. The Canadiens host Toronto Saturday night, the Vancouver Tuesday. They’re at Columbus Friday but back home to play Philadlephia next Saturday, the first of four straight at home.