Canadiens’ Maxim Lapierre (centre) celebrates his first-period goal with Christopher Higgins and Mathieu Dandenault.
Scott Audette, NHLI via Getty Images
Updated with links to The Gazette game story at 8:35 a.m. by Kevin Mio
At noon-hour today, Guy Carbonneau’s curious, latest shuffle of his lines had Canadiens fans in a flap worthy of our gone-south Canada geese.
By 9 p.m., surely some of those fans were reconsidering the foresight – dare we say genius? – of the gone-south Canadiens head coach.
Montreal scored early and often tonight in Tampa, five different players finding the net behind two goaltenders, in rolling to a 5-2 victory over the Lightning. We’ll never know whether the result was because the Canadiens were rested, not having played since Sunday, or because the Lightning were weary, having played Wednesday night.
No matter what, the Canadiens improved to 18-13-6 overall in this fourth of a six-game road trip, while avoiding their third straight loss. The Habs are an outstanding 12-6-2 away from the Bell Centre.
Maxim Lapierre, inserted by Carbonneau on the Canadiens’ third line between Christopher Higgins and Michael Ryder, opened the scoring at 10:20 of the first period, picking up a beautiful Montreal zone-clearing pass from defenceman Mike Komisarek threaded through two Lightning players at the Habs blue line. Lapierre drew Tampa defenceman Filip Kuba in deep on the 2-on-1 break, then used Higgins as a decoy before whipping a shot past Lightning goalie Johan Holmqvist for his first goal of the season.
Guillaume Latendresse made it 2-0 just 2:29 later, converting the excellent work of Sergei Kostitsyn and backhand toil in the slot of captain Saku Koivu for his 10th of the year.
The Canadiens outshot their hosts 10-6 through the first 20 minutes.
Alex Kovalev eluded defender Brad Lukowich along the boards off the opening faceoff of the second period and caromed one in off the sliding Kuba’s skate, through the pads of Holmqvist for his 16th. It came at just 10 seconds with the teams playing 4-on-4, Latendresse and Tampa’s Shane O’Brien serving coincidental minors drawn at 20:00 of the first.
Montreal’s third goal brought out Lightning coach John Tortorella’s hook for goalie Holmqvist in place of Karri Ramo, who immediately proved to be more airtight than the netminder he replaced. Ramo was terrific foiling Higgins with a glove save on a shorthanded semi-breakaway about eight minutes into the period, Michael Ryder in the box for tripping.
Montreal held a 12-11 edge in shots in the second period.
Defenceman Andrei Markov made it 4-0 with his 10th of the year, that coming on a one-time slap shot off a cross-ice pass from Mark Streit, fed by Koivu, at 44 seconds of the third. The arena was still deflating from that when Tomas Plekanec took a pass from Kovalev, then fed the streaking Andrei Kostitsyn for the Canadiens’ fifth and the player’s seventh, just 24 seconds later.
Tampa’s Vaclav Prospal ruined Huet’s shutout bid at 6:15 when some botched coverage by the Habs along their boards left the Lightning forward alone at the edge of the Montreal goal crease.
Tortorella, as puzzling to Lightning fans as Carbonneau sometimes is to Montreal supporters, then put Holmqvist back in the Tampa net. His players might even have noticed.
Sloppy clearing by the Canadiens with 16 seconds left allowed Tampa’s Jan Hlavac to score the Lightning’s second goal.
The Canadiens will be in Sunrise, Fla., Friday night to take on the Florida Panthers, then will conclude their road trip on Sunday in New York vs. the Rangers.