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Canadiens strike down Lightning

The SportsXchange

TAMPA, Fla. -- Brendan Gallagher admittedly doesn't score many "pretty ones." Luckily for him, all goals count the same regardless of style.

The Montreal Canadiens stacked together enough ugly and pretty ones Saturday night at Tampa Bay Times Forum, including Gallagher's eventual winner with 7:57 left, to rush back from a three-goal deficit for a 4-3 win over the reeling Lightning.

After two periods of dabbling on the fringes and watching former Canadiens minor-league goalie Cedrick Desjardins stifle the top team in the Eastern Conference, Montreal went to the net with force and numbers in the final 20 minutes, completely vexing a Tampa Bay team that lost for the seventh time in eight games.

"We talked about getting traffic to the net and going in tough on the goaltender," said Gallagher, who scored his seventh of the season by jamming in a puck in the crease. "I thought we did a good job of it. That goal, (Max Pacioretty) just battled behind the net, got the puck out front and I was lucky enough to jam it in.

"That's what good teams do."

Montreal improved to 16-5-4 and atop the conference. Meanwhile, a fourth straight home loss kept Tampa Bay (10-14-1) fourth of five teams in the Southeast.

"We're not hungry to win and we are scared to lose right now and it shows," said Lightning center Steven Stamkos, who improved his league-leading goals total to 19. "In the first 10 minutes (of the third period), instead of keeping the pressure on them we are dumping pucks into nobody, just giving the puck right back to them. And the game is about puck possession and we are giving the puck right back to them."

Montreal used two goals in the first nine minutes of the third period to tie the score at 3, two of them after withering pressure in front of Desjardins, who was critical of his positioning on the plays.

Brian Gionta's power play goal 3:49 into the third period pulled Montreal to 3-2. His eighth goal of the season came after a protracted scrum in the crease with Desjardins under a clutch of players and Stamkos laying on the goal line.

"There was one second to kill and that puck was under Cedrick," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "Everybody was fighting for it and it just popped out on their stick. It was tough to take, but at that point they were a team that has been winning and felt confident in that situation."

Alexei Emelin tied the score at 3 on a deep slap shot with 12:27 left. Montreal outshot the Lightning 13-2 in the third period.

Carey Price had 20 saves for the Canadiens. Desjardins had 25.

Stamkos had given Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead with 14:30 left in the second period. Montreal responded with 12:22 left in the period when Tomas Plekanec scored his team-high 11th goal on a pass from the boards by Alexei Markov. Lightning defenseman Matt Carle couldn't react to Plekanec breaking open in the slot before the center wristed a shot past Desjardins.

Tampa Bay retook the lead less than a minute later when defenseman Sami Salo used a blinding screen of B.J. Crombeen to wrist in a shot from the right faceoff circle. The goal was Salo's second of the season.

The Lightning quickly exploited a power play to jump ahead 3-1 with 7:40 left in the second period, ending a 0-of-9 slide with a man advantage. Just 18 seconds into a tripping call against Plekanec, Stamkos tipped down a barrage from the point that glanced off Ryan Malone's leg for his fifth goal of the season.

"We have to be better," Plekanec said of the second period. "We won't be able to come back every game like that."

Desjardins, acquired from Montreal last month in a minor-league deal and starting because of an injury to backup Martin Garon, looked ready to beat his former team before Montreal unleashed a ferocious third-period forecheck that completely stifled the Lightning offensively and defensively.

"We always try to make some adjustments at times," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "Tonight was just a matter of a character win. We tried to put more pucks at the net. I believe in the second period we were not throwing the puck at the net. We were probably more on the outside.

"When you try to make a comeback, usually they are not fancy. It is with hard work, and when you put puck at the net, there is a price to pay and some of our guys paid that price to get the win."

NOTES: Montreal left winger Brandon Prust appeared to injure his wrist crashing into the boards with 9:50 left in the third period. Therrien said he had no medical update. ... Stamkos has at least a point in 21 of the first 25 games. ... With two assists, St. Louis extended his points streak to six games and has 27 assists, second in the NHL. ... Desjardins made his first start of the season for Tampa Bay. His last NHL start was a 4-1 win over Montreal on Dec. 30, 2010. Tampa Bay has lost seven of eight and is 4-13-1 since starting the season 6-1-0. ... Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban had a five-game points streak snapped. ... Price leads the league lead in wins (13).
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