BELL CENTRE – MONTREAL, QUEBEC, CANADA – Max Pacioretty scored twice in the third period, and added an assist for a three point night, as the Montreal Canadiens downed the Lightning 5-2 Wednesday night.
Bruno Gervais had brought Tampa Bay to within a 3-2 deficit when he struck at 3:42 of the third period before Pacioretty iced it for the Habs. Gervais picked up a loose puck in front of the net and put a hard wrist shot on Canadiens goalie Peter Budaj. Budaj made the stop but the puck bounced into the air and then off the shoulder of a Canadiens defenseman into the net. It was the 6th goal of the season for Gervais.
A little over two minutes later Pacioretty took the air out of any hopes of a Lightning comeback when he collected a rebound left by Sebastien Caron and backhanded it into the net for a 4-2 Montreal lead at 5:58. His 31st goal of the season was the backbreaker for the Bolts.
It didn’t take Montreal long to get on the board after the opening face off as Alexei Emelin put a rebound past Caron just 2:11 into play. The Canadiens took control and skated around the Tampa Bay net. The puck came out to the high slot where David Desharnais fired a shot through a crowd that hit Caron and came to Emelin who put it in for his 3rd goal of the season and a 1-0 Montreal lead.
Tampa Bay capitalized on a Montreal mistake just over five minutes later when goaltender Peter Budaj took the puck in the right corner and fired a pass across the slot. Vincent Lecavalier intercepted the pass and easily put the puck into the empty net at 7:26 to tie the game at 1-1. It was the 22nd goal of the year for the Lightning captain but only his first point since coming back to the active roster. He had gone pointless in three games since returning from the injured list.
Once again the Canadiens struck early as the second period got underway. At 1:42 Tampa Bay was caught on a line change and Montreal skated into the offensive zone on a 5 on 2 break. Desharnais set up Erik Cole for a one timer from the right circle that Caron never had a chance to stop. For Cole it was the 33rd time this season he put the puck in the net and Montreal had a 2-1 lead.
Cole struck again on the power play later in the period as Montreal took a 3-1 lead. With Tim Wallace in the penalty box for cross checking, Tomas Plekanec ripped a slap shot from the point that Cole tipped from the high slot at 14:34 for his second goal of the game and 34th of the year. Wallace cross checked Alexei Emelin as he took control of the puck high in the Tampa Bay zone forcing the penalty call. Wallace complained about the penalty all the way into the box but it was clearly a good call by the referee and Montreal took advantage of the play.
Pacioretty closed out the scoring with just over 5 minutes to play with his second of the game and 32nd of the year. He carried the puck over the blue line and Victor Hedman made a weak attempt at a hip check. Pacioretty slipped right by untouched and fired a shot over Caron’s right shoulder into the far side of the net at 14:57 for a 5-2 Canadiens lead.
The Lightning were suffering from Stamkos Syndrome as they kept trying to feed him the puck to help him in his chase for 60 goals on the season. But it worked against them as on two seperate occasions in the second period they made one pass too many trying to set up the NHL’s leading goal scorer, and gave up good scoring chances while doing so.
Tampa Bay visits the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night at Air Canada Centre. Dwayne Roloson is expected to get the start in net for the Bolts. Opening face off is scheduled for 7:00 pm.
NOTES: Mike Commodore and Brandon Segal were healthy scratches…..The Lightning split the season series with the Habs 2-2…..Tampa Bay is now 37-36-7 for 81 points. They need one regulation win over the final two games to finish with a winning record for the season…..Stamkos was held without a goal and now has 2 games to reach the 60 mark. He has 58…..The game was a sellout with 21,273 in attendance…..The Three Stars of the game were 1. Erik Cole, 2. Max Pacioretty, and 3. David Desharnais…..Montreal out shot Tampa Bay 25-16…..The Bolts were 0-3 on the power play while Montreal was 1-4.
Ray Blanchette covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for Outside The Redzone. He also covers NCAA football for the Saturday Blitz. Follow along at www.saturdayblitz.com. Blanchette is the owner of Blanchette Sports Holdings. Follow along with them at www.blanchettesh.elementfx.com or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100003521034703&sk=wall or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/BlanchettSports