TAMPA — Welcome to playoff heartbreak.
The Tampa Bay Lightning's group of resilient rookies jumped into the NHL postseason grinder and came out worse for wear in their first taste of playoff hockey.
Though Tampa Bay twice erased third-period deficits, Dale Weise scored on an open look with 1:52 left in the first overtime session to give Montreal a 5-4 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals in front of an announced sellout crowd of 19,204 at the Forum.
The Canadiens grabbed a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with Game 2 set for Friday at the Forum.
Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos scored twice while playoff rookies Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov also scored for the Lightning, which put four shots past Carey Price despite just 25 shots on goal, 16 of which came in regulation time.
The Lightning fell to 8-7 all-time in overtime playoff games.
Anders Lindback, making his first career playoff start, finished with 39 saves to take the loss.
“He gave up five goals so people will say he gave up five goals but we put him in a tough spot a lot,'' Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “We have to be better than that, if you are going to go there and say that Lindback cost us the game, don't.''
The Lightning put Lindback in that spot by turning over the puck on numerous occasions, which allowed Montreal to generate a transition game and push Tampa Bay back into its own zone for good portions of the game. The Lightning were credited with 11 giveaways while the Canadiens had seven takeaways for 18 turnovers, compared to 13 combined for Montreal.
“We didn't play the way we needed to in order to win this game,'' Stamkos said. “It didn't feel like we really deserved it all game. ... We do have a lot of guys that have not been in this situation before, but hopefully they get that experience now, get those jitters out of the way and we can focus on our game now.''
The Lightning sort of felt their way through the opening half of the first period before Kucherov, who scored in his first career NHL game, did the same in his first playoff game, taking a J.T. Brown feed and snapping a shot just under the pads of Price 10:09 into the game. But Tomas Plekanec answered that 19 seconds later, dekeing his way around Radko Gudas and firing a wrist shot off the glove of Lindback at 10:28.
After trading goals in the second period, the back-and-forth continued in the third with a Mike Kostka turnover at the offensive blue line leading to Lars Eller putting a shot through Lindback at 5:10. Tampa Bay answered that less than two minutes later on Killorn's first career playoff goal at 7:11. Montreal would go ahead again at 11:30 when Thomas Vanek redirected a David Desharnais pass, but Killorn would make a nice play on a 2-on-1 to feed Stamkos for his second goal of the night with 6:33 left to play to send the game into overtime.
“We came out tentative and didn't want to make too many mistakes, but as the game went on we got more comfortable,'' Killorn said. “But with turnovers at the blue line and stuff like that, it would cost us.
Tampa Bay would play its best period in overtime, with Price stopping Nate Thompson on a partial breakaway 7:58 into overtime, then twice stopped Teddy Purcell from the slot and also turned aside a Killorn chance at 13:43. The Lightning looked to be fortunate when Max Pacioretty struck the post with a wide open net in front of him with 2:55 left in the overtime. But it was on the next shift that Weise would be left all alone in front of the net as rookie Cedric Paquette, playing just his third career NHL game lost coverage, allowing Weise to hammer home a pass from Daniel Briere to give the Canadiens the victory.
“Danny make a great play there,'' Weise said, “and I won't miss too many from there.''
But Tampa Bay did miss out on a chance to steal the first game after not playing their best.
“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot, we did it with the game winning goal in overtime and other times throughout the game,'' Cooper said. “Do we have better in us? We do, I know we can play better than that. We had our chances, we just fell one short.'' email@example.com