The Lightning are generally the team forcing third period meltdowns. On Saturday, Tampa Bay experienced one of its own.
Montreal scored three times in the final period to erase a two-goal deficit and skate away with a 4-3 victory in front of an announced sellout crowd of 19,204 at The Forum.
Brian Gionta, Alexei Emelin and Brandon Gallagher all scored in the third to erase a seemingly solid first two periods for a Lightning team continuing to spiral down the standings. Cedrick Desjardins received his first NHL start in over two years, but unlike his first two outings for Tampa Bay did not come up with the victory after stopping 25 shots.
Tampa Bay entered the game outscoring its opposition 37-30 in the third period. Instead, it allowed three goals Saturday to fall to 7-2 when leading after two periods.
The Lightning meltdown was exemplified by managing two shots on goal in the final period, the first coming with 1:48 left. The Lightning dropped to 4-14-1 since a 6-1 start to the season, dropping seven of the past eight games.
Montreal came out of the gates and hemmed the Lightning inside their own zone, forcing Tampa Bay to turn the puck over and spend most of the opening five minutes defending. The Canadiens had the first five shots on goal of the game through 2:22, though Desjardins was not called on to make anything more than routine saves.
The Lightning started to find their skating legs a bit after the slow start and began to generate some quality scoring chances by throwing pucks on net and looking for rebound chances in front of Price. By the end of the first period, Tampa Bay held a 10-7 shot advantage, 10-2 over the final 17:38 of the period, though the game was scoreless.
It didnít take long into the second for the tie to be broken, however, as Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos did some pretty give-and-go work leading to St. Louis dishing back to Stamkos in the slot for a perfect wrist shot at 5:30 for his league-leading 19th goal.
Montreal pulled even less than two minutes later when Michael Ryder knocked a puck off the stick of Brian Lee, sending it right to Andrei Markov to feed an open Tomas Plekanec in the slot for a quick shot at 7:38.
Tampa Bay regained the lead less than a minute later when the puck deflected back to Sami Salo at the right point. He skated down the right side before picking the top far corner as Ryan Malone set a screen in front of Price at 8:15 for the defensemanís second goal of the season.
Malone then increased the lead to 3-1 when St. Louis sent a center-point shot that deflected off the stick of Stamkos and then off the skate of Malone, who once again parked out at the top of the crease at 12:20.
Montreal cut the deficit in half after Victor Hedman took a needless tripping call 1:49 into third period. Desjardins collected a shot and tried to pull it under him for a whistle, but the puck apparently was never under wraps and play was allowed to continue with a mass of bodies in front, Brian Gionta found a way to get it into the net to make it 3-2.
The Canadiens pulled even at 7:33 as Alexei Emelin fired a shot from the right point that deflected off the stick of Alex Killorn and past Desjardins to make it a 3-3 game.
Gallagher then scored the winner off a feed from Max Pacioretty at 12:03.