For instance, do they have a greater impact than a goal scored with two minutes left in a period, or five minutes left?
The Tampa Bay Lightning were on the ropes for most of the first period against the Canadiens Saturday night and the Canadiens were holding a 2-0 lead when Alex Killorn scored with 59 seconds remaining to make it a one-goal game as the teams headed for the dressing room.
This was the fourteenth time in eleven different games this season the Canadiens have allowed a last minute goal. In those games their record is 4-7.
The real question is, did the late goal fire the Lightning up or were they already starting to get their legs under them after the holiday break?
Who can say definitively? We can say this: when Max Domi scored the Canadiens second goal at the mid-point of the first period the shots on goal were 17-0. The rest of the period the Lightning outshot the Canadiens 9-3. In other words Tampa was coming on and the Canadiens game was starting to fall apart.
Including that late first period goal, the Lightning scored three in a playing time span of 5:55 and never looked back, ultimately scoring five in a row before the Canadiens scored two late to make it a one-goal game.
ANOTHER REASON FOR CONCERN
It’s what you do within your own division that tends to shape the NHL’s final standings. The Canadiens have played Atlantic division teams twelve times so far this season. They have won only four of those games (4-6-2). the Canadiens started the night in third place in the division. Three hours later they were they were in fifth place in the Eastern Conference wild card race and they slipped from eighth to eleventh overall in the East. It might be said the Canadiens are in a tight race among five teams but they are also playing catch-up as they did for most of the last two periods against Tampa.
Nick Suzuki had been playing very well at centre in the games leading up to the holiday break. Claude Julien elected to move him back on a line with Max Domi, basically as a replacement for the injured Joel Armia. Seems to me there was confusion as to who was centre on the line. Whatever, it didn’t turn out very well. Domi/Kotkaniemi/Lehkonen had a really messy game. They were on the ice for four of the five Lightning goals. Two of those goals were the end result of Domi giveaways which completely negated his goal which had at the time given the Canadiens their 2-0 lead.
BACK IN FORM
Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored a goal in his first on-ice shift and first shot on goal since December fifth when he suffered a concussion after the slew foot from Colorado defenseman Nikita Zadorov. For one who missed eight games, I thought he had a pretty good night which included three shots on goal. In the puck possession stats the Kotkaniemi/Cousins/Weal line was at 69.7%, slightly better than the Danault line. They were not on the ice for any of the Lightning goals.
Hard to blame the goaltender in a game like this, but Carey Price wasn’t on top of his game either. Five goals-against on thirty shots makes that pretty obvious. Two of those goals were off rebounds that Price usually swallows up. He was also soft Tampa’s third goal which put the Lightning in the lead to stay. This was his sixth straight start and he’ll probably make it seven in a row Sunday night in Florida in the second half of the games back-to-back.
Claude Julien has always liked to have a fourth line that contribute to the offense on a periodical basis. He’s not getting it. The Nate Thompson/Ryan Poehling/Riley Barber line had control just under 36% of the time they were on the ice. Barber is the only member of the team that failed to produce a shot on goal. Thompson had one shot. Poehling has been ordered to concentrate his efforts on defense at this stage of his development. The result is a kind of offensive black hole. That said, nobody scored against them in this game.
ALSO WORTH MENTIONING
….According to naturalstattrick.com the Canadiens led the Lightning 8-2 in high dangers scoring chances in the first period. The final two periods favoured Tampa 10-4.
….Phillip Danault took 28 of the 61 faceoffs in the game. He won 20 of them – 71%.
….Max Domi’s goal was his fourth in the last four games and he has seven points his last five games.
….Jeff Petry had an in-and-out night. He led the Canadiens with six shots on goal. At the other end he had a bad night protecting the area in front of the Canadiens goal.
….This was Shea Weber’s 200th game as a member of the Canadiens. Outside of being involved in the confusion that led to Tampa’s first goal of the game, I thought he had a good night.
….Not to be forgotten, the Canadiens have an acceptable 7-4-0 record in their last eleven games and still hold a 3-2-0 record with two games remaining on their seven game holiday road trip. Most fans would be happy with that if the cloud of the eight game losing streak hadn’t preceded it.
The scene shifts to South Florida for the second of the back-to-back games against the Panthers Sunday night at Sunrise. The Panthers also played Saturday night, defeating Detroit 5-4. It can’t be overstated how important this game looms. The Panthers are currently one point ahead of the Canadiens with a game in hand.
The Canadiens will complete their seven games on the road in Carolina on New Year’s Eve.