MONTREAL — In the aftermath of the loss of Steven Stamkos, Lightning captain Marty St. Louis said Tuesday morning it was time for Tampa Bay to go to work.
That's exactly what the Lightning did, finding a way to squeeze out a 2-1 shootout victory against the Montreal Canadiens in front of a sellout crowd of 21,273 at Bell Centre.
Valtteri Filppula scored the only goal in the shootout, while Ben Bishop stopped 28 shots in regulation and all three Montreal attempts in the shootout to improve to 12-2 on the season, 3-0 in shootouts. Ryan Malone scored the lone goal in regulation as Tampa Bay moved to 13-5 on the season, having won eight of the past 10 games to remain at the top of the Atlantic Division standings.
Montreal goaltender Carey Price did all he could to stifle the Lightning offense, stopping 44 shots as Tampa Bay fired a season-high 45 shots on net. Only a Danny Briere goal with 4:38 left in the game salvaged a point for Montreal.
“This is a team sport, and we are going to move forward, obviously it's a tough spot, but I thought we played well tonight and we could have easily scored more goals, but Carey Price was great,'' said Bishop, who has allowed two or fewer goals in 12 of his 14 starts this year. “We hung in there until the end. We get a big goal by (Filppula) in the shootout and get a big two points.''
With so much focus on the loss of Stamkos, who led the league with 14 goals and 23 points entering the night, the Lightning did their best to put that behind them and concentrate on the task of pushing forward. At least for one night, they were able to accomplish that and come out with a victory.
“We understand this is not a one-game absence (of Stamkos) for us, this is one of many, but we do need to bring this type of effort,'' Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “But we've pretty much brought this all year, and this was a big step in overcoming what we know is going to be a big challenge for us. But this is a big step for us in understanding that we can overcome it.''
Malone was able to give Tampa Bay the early lead, as he was on the seat of his pants to deflect an Eric Brewer shot past Price at the 5:00 mark of the game for his second goal in three games.
That was a sign of things to come for the Lightning in terms of putting forth an effort to get to Price and keep the pressure in the Montreal zone. During one shift in the second period, Tampa Bay had 2:07 of continuous possession in the Montreal end, getting three shots on goal during that process. Despite that, Price was nearly perfect in turning aside so many other chances until Radko Gudas appeared to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead with 17:16 with a point shot through traffic. The play was ruled no goal on the ice and play continued for 34 more seconds before it went to a review.
During the review process, the puck clearly went into the net, but the on-ice official ruled there was incidental contact by Tyler Johnson with Price and the goal was disallowed.
“The referee informed the Situation Room that he observed incidental contact in the crease by Lightning forward Tyler Johnson on goaltender Carey Price, if in fact the puck crossed the goal line,'' according to a league statement.
So Tampa Bay continued to hold the one-goal lead into the third period and looked to be in position to make it stand until a hard rim around the boards by the Lightning was intercepted by Max Pacioretty, and he threw a puck toward the net that deflected off Briere to tie the game with 4:38 left in regulation.
The Lightning then had a chance to regain the lead with two power-play opportunities in the final 3:33 of the game, but failed to score after Rene Bourque was called for high sticking and Lars Eller was called for a face-off delay with 1:06 left in regulation. In the overtime, Tampa Bay had another opportunity, including 15 seconds of a two-man advantage but Price turned away 22 shots in the third period and overtime to send the game to a shootout.
“We told ourselves that we had to go out there and not feel sorry for ourselves,'' defenseman Victor Hedman said. “We had to step up and play better, tonight was a good test for us, and I thought we played real well. We easily could have had the win in 60 minutes, but Price played really well. They got a goal in the end, but fortunately we got the two points we came here for.''