Canadiens survive miracle comeback from Tampa

Feb 12, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Montreal Canadiens center David Desharnais (51) scores the game winning goal past Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Anders Lindback (39) during a shootout at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Montreal defeated Tampa Bay 4-3 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Some say hockey doesn’t belong in Florida, most certainly those who reside in Canada have that belief, yet I’m sure none of the Canadiens were too upset about playing in Tampa against the Lightning last night, especially considering the daytime high was 50 degrees warmer than it was Montreal, as the high soared to 80. The weather seemed to rub off on the boys too considering they rushed out to a 3-0 lead and with 6 minutes left seemed like the inevitable winners. Yet Tampa stormed back with three goals to take it to overtime before Montreal rebounded to take it in a shootout.

In a penalty ridden period, after the initial power play from an interference call on Emelin, Montreal proceeded to have four power play opportunities, including a 5 on 3 late in the first where by way of wonderful puck rotation to center the puck right in front of the net Brian Gionta punched it home to make it a 1-0 game.

The second period started off quiet until about midway through when Lars Eller fed PK at the blue line as he ripped it home for his third goal of the season, extending the lead to 2-0. Late in the second, just shortly after killing off a penalty, Eller’s line once again got going as he set up another goal with the scorer this time being Travis Moen, his first of the season.

This game seemed to be a nice, defensive win for the Habs, heck I was already thinking about how exactly to cap off this column and preparing my overall game recap, however Tampa woke up. Bad defense around the blue line allowed Tampa to get all three forwards setup in the scoring zone around the net with only one defender and Carey Price to try and stop the attack. However a perfect crossing pass set up Victor Hedman to mail it home bringing the deficit down to two. Four minutes later the Lightning got a great breakout going with that same line that just scored, with Hedman beating Eller straight up the heart of the ice and punching it home to make it a one goal game. Surely Montreal wasn’t actually going to blow this one, but a Plekanec penalty gave Tampa a 6 on 4 PP opportunity. Just a mere 20 seconds after the penalty was called Sami Salo ripped one from deep, only to have luck on his side as it bounced off a Montreal skate into the net tying it up at three.

Things seemed very bleak for the Canadiens, as this should have been a game where they coasted in the late minutes and took an easy two points. Yet now here they found themselves in overtime, however instead of feeling sorry for themselves, fought back with an impressive five minutes. They would out shoot Tampa 6-1, and came very close twice to punching it in, however they needed a shootout to take this one. Tampa failed with their first two shooters, but David Desharnais would fire one through on a beautiful fake to give Montreal the only one they’d need in the shootout session as Price shut down Stamkos’s attempt to give Montreal the win and the two points.

Other thoughts:

Montreal didn’t do a good job of attacking the goal mouth against Tampa, settling for 27 outside shots while only getting 7 in the scoring zone. On a better note however, they only allowed the Lightning to get off 13 shots in close to the goal really limiting what is usually an explosive attack as Tampa is far and away the best scoring team in the NHL at 3.8 goals a game. Sadly Desharnais and Cole continue to be underwhelming as both recorded a -1 for the game. David is now -6 for the season, worst on the team, while Erik is a -1 on the young season. The fact that those guys both got about 18 minutes last night, while skaters like Gallagher and Galchenyuk only got 11 is beyond me. You’re better guys shouldn’t be seeing the ice 7 minutes less than other lesser players

Three Stars: 1st-Victor Hedman 2nd-Anders Lindback 3rd-PK Subban

The Canadiens (7-4-1) take on Florida on Thursday night at 7:30 down by South Beach

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