For the fans it was a terrific piece of entertainment decided literally on the game’s 70th and final shot on goal which broke the 5-5 tie with just over a minute left.
Although there were other factors, Antti Niemi is going to take a lot of the blame for this loss. It’s hard to ignore six goals against, although I didn’t have much problem with the four he let in through the first two periods. But, the road-weary Canadiens needed their goaltender to come through in the third period. The tying 5-5 goal was troubling, coming off another one of Niemi’s fat rebounds off a shot that should easily have been smothered. Niemi has started 10 games this season. He has given up four or more goals in five of them and never fewer than three. His statistical line is now – 4.22 GAA and his save% .870. Not good enough even for a backup.
This was the Canadiens second game on the road in 24 hours. In the third period it showed. After owning the puck 60% of the first two periods, the Canadiens were hanging on in the third period. Tampa had 71% of the third period play and outshot the Canadiens 13-6.
Yes, Niemi could have been better but his teammates were gassed.
What has happened to Phillip Danault? In Vegas he scored a hat trick. Against the Lightning, three assists. That’s six points in three games; nine points in his last eight. All of this while going up against the opposition’s top lines. His defence has always been excellent. What is really standing out right now is the way he’s seeing the ice offensively. He’s on a roll. How long it lasts will be the question.
There were eleven goals scored in this game. Neither team’s defense covered itself in glory. For the second game in a row I thought Shea Weber‘s game seemed a little sluggish. He’s experienced enough to not hurt the team defensively.
I wonder about Victor Mete however. Mete was on the ice for both of Tampa’s third period goals. On the game-tying goal, Adam Erne dominated him physically in order to get to the rebound. I’m sure this won’t be the last time Mete’s size is going to be a topic of conversation.
Weber‘s return to the lineup was the best thing to happen to Jordie Benn and his game. It bounced him down to the third pairing where he is thriving not only as a defenceman but also on offence. Benn scored his first goal in 27 games and assisted on another in the game. He wound up plus-3 on a night when he played only 14:50.
THE THIRD LINE
Andrew Shaw scored his 10th and 11th goals of the season. In a game that was notable for the work ethic from almost all of the forwards, Shaw stood out. He becomes the fourth member of the team to reach the ten-goal plateau before the season reaches it’s mid-point. He’s on track for a career year.
Also Shaw seems to be a perfect fit for Jesperi Kotkaniemi who is now shooting the puck more often. He took a team-leading five shots in this game and had two early high-danger scoring chances.
With Lehkonen on right wing the line combined for 12 shots on goal.
….Not much was seen or noted from the Domi/Drouin/Byron line. A total of three shots, one from each of them and each was minus-2. They were on the ice for the game-winning goal.
….Another in-and-out night from the power play. It looked excellent on their first opportunity but failed to score. After struggling through most of their second chance, Shaw scored with ten seconds remaining. They failed to get a shot on their third opportunity. Still a work in progress but four goals in their last 15 opportunities is an improvement and the Canadiens no longer have the league’s worst power play. .
….The loss combined with Boston’s overtime win in Buffalo dropped the Canadiens back down to the second Eastern Conference wild card berth. The Islanders, who shut out the Leafs in Toronto Saturday night, are nipping on the Canadiens heels; one point behind with two games in hand.
On to Dallas for the New Year’s Eve meeting with the Stars and the end of the six game road trip. The Canadiens still have a chance to come away with a winning record if they can beat Dallas. They will return home to play Vancouver and Nashville next Thursday and Saturday.