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Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier celebrates his second-period goal.
Dave Sandford, Getty Images
It seems the ailing Canadiens have developed an immunity even to the National Hockey League’s most effective guaranteed-win medicine.
The Tampa Bay Lightning came to Montreal last night for their second game in as many nights, having been pounded 6-1 in Toronto by the Maple Leafs, and as the NHL’s worst road team, having won just twice away from home. The Canadiens had won six of their past eight games against the Lightning, including two in a row in their usually friendly home rink.
Finally last night, a Canadiens win on Bell Centre ice, right?
A shootout goal by Brad Richards, far and away the game’s best player, and three saves – glove, pad and pad – by goalie Marc Denis on Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Kostitsyn and Saku Koivu lifted the Lightning to a 3-2 victory over the Canadiens.
The loss was Montreal’s sixth straight at home and leaves them within one loss of tying the club record for home-ice futility. A defeat Saturday to the Toronto Maple Leafs, well within the realm of possibility, will equal that sorry mark set seven years ago.
Yesterday, Canadiens head coach Guy Carbonneau scrapped the traditional game-day morning skate, perhaps to keep his team away from the circus surrounding the homecoming of native Quebecers Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, among others. So much for that tactic.
The Canadiens, now 14-11-5, led this one 1-0 on a broken-stick power-play goal by Alex Kovalev at 47 seconds of the second period. But the Lightning struck back – Lecavalier, 63 seconds later, and André Roy, at 8:58, the latter on a botched clearing attempt by rookie defenceman Ryan O’Byrne, gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead heading into the third period.
Plekanec evened the score at 15:22 of the third, converting his own rebound past Denis.
Montreal goalie Carey Price stopped Lecavalier in the shootout and St. Louis shot wide, but in between, a beautiful snap shot high over his blocker-side shoulder by Richards proved the winner.
The Habs had dodged two dangerous shorthanded bullets in the third, Plekanec dinged for a hooking minor at the 20-minute mark of the second and Mathieu Dandenault drawing a slashing penalty midway through the third.
Montreal could do nothing with an overtime power play of their own, Vaclav Prospal called for tripping at 3:04.
Tampa Bay outshot Montreal 31-30, though the Canadiens had a 3-1 edge in the overtime.
The Canadiens play the Flyers in Philadelphia tomorrow before returning home for Saturday’s tilt against the Maple Leafs.
Below: Canadiens’ Saku Koivu is robbed by Tampa Bay goalie Marc Denis on the game-deciding shootout effort.
Shaun Best, Reuters