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Price perfect in shootout, Habs squeak past Lightning

The SportsXchange

TAMPA, Fla. -- It appeared the Tampa Bay Lightning had the better goaltender for most of the game on Saturday. Not at the finish. The Montreal Canadiens got the win to prove it.

Center Lars Eller scored the only goal in a shootout and goaltender Carey Price stopped all three shots he faced as the Canadiens outlasted the Lightning 2-1 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Price stopped Valterri Filuppa, Nikita Kucherov and finally Teddy Purcell for his 20th save to end the shootout as Montreal pulled within a point of second place in the Atlantic Division.

"I have to be happy with three saves," said Price, who studied video to improve his performance in shootouts. "A shootout is all about timing."

Eller scored his ninth goal of the season on Montreal's first attempt against goaltender Ben Bishop, who made 23 saves, several of them spectacular, including two game-saving saves late in regulation and in overtime.

Eller executed his plan of moving laterally and scoring high against Bishop, who is the tallest goaltender in the NHL at 6-foot-7.

"You have some moves you're good at, you practice them, and know what you're going to do before you go out there," he said.

But ultimately, Eller insisted, the shootout wasn't about him.

"We had the best goalie tonight," Eller said of Price. "He made the difference again."

Price made a big difference in the third period as Tampa Bay swarmed, completely reversing the momentum of the first two periods. The Lightning outshot Montreal 14-6 in the third.

"I thought there were times that they were holding on and we just couldn't get that one to break the tie," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

The Canadiens were again the aggressor in overtime as center Tomas Plekanec forced Bishop to make a game-saver from close range. Left winger Max Pacioretty put a hard shot on goal from the slot with 90 seconds left in regulation, but Bishop smothered it.

Montreal took a 1-0 lead less than five minutes into the second period when Plekanec skated onto a pass from right winger Brian Gionta in the high slot and bull-rushed the net to beat Bishop from close range. Center Alex Killorn draped on Plekanec as he advanced but was unable to prevent the Czech's 13th goal of the season. Gionta and left winger Trevor Moen provided assists.

Bishop allowed the Lightning to survive the first period in a scoreless tie despite constant Montreal pressure. Bishop sprawled to smother a tip by right winger Brandon Prust with 12:29 left in the period and held his position on a Plekanec breakaway to make a glove save on a snap shot fading to his left with 10:25 remaining. Bishop was later bailed out by three shots bouncing off the pipes.

"Our team was really rusty the first couple periods," Bishop said of Tampa Bay, which had not played since Dec. 23. "I thought we played a great third period but you can't win games when you show up for 20 minutes.

"... I think part of that had to do with the break. We won those games before the break and I think we thought it was going to be easy tonight. They're a good team over there and we were able to get a point out of it."

Right winger Martin St. Louis tied the score at 1 with 8:17 left in the second period. The Lightning captain recovered a pass he bobbled on the end of a breakout to snap his team-leading 17th goal of the season over Price's shoulder as center Tyler Johnson provided a screen. Johnson and left winger Ondrej Palat were credited with assists.

NOTES: Tampa Bay is 5-2 in shootouts this season, including a 2-1 win at Montreal. ... Tampa Bay RW Martin St. Louis has goals in four consecutive games and extended his points streak to six games. He has eight points in that span. St. Louis is two points behind former Lightning coach Rick Tocchet for 89th on the all-time NHL points list at 952. ... Montreal C Tomas Plekanec scored goals in consecutive games four times this season. ... Montreal's leading goal scorer, LW Max Pacioretty, went to the locker room after being struck in the face with a deflected puck with 10:52 left in the first period but returned in the second. ... Montreal is 3-for-32 on the power play in its last 11 games. The Canadiens were 0-for-3 on Saturday ... Tampa Bay recalled D Dmitry Korobov from AHL Syracuse. His recall was necessitated because of upper-body injuries to D Eric Brewer and D Sami Salo. ... Lightning RW Ryan Malone participated in his first full-squad practice since breaking his ankle in November, but is not expected to return until January.
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