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Weise scores OT winner as Habs take Game 1 in Tampa

The SportsXchange

TAMPA, Fla. -- Maybe it was for the best that Montreal Canadiens winger Daniel Weise did not have time to think, much less over-think.

As center Daniel Briere's pass from behind the goal approached, there was not time for Weise to consider what could be his first playoff goal, an overtime winner in Game 1 of Montreal's Eastern Conference series with Tampa Bay -- or that the third-seeded Canadians were one accurate shot away from wrestling home-ice advantage from the second-seeded Lightning.

All Weise had time to do was rear back and hammer the puck.

"I knew as soon as I got it. My eyes got real big," said Weise, who scored just six regular-season goals. "I was not going to miss."

He did not.

Weise's game-winner past Tampa Bay goaltender Anders Lindback with 1:52 left in overtime Wednesday lifted Montreal to a 5-4 win over the Lightning at Tampa Bay Times Forum in an exhilarating series-opener.

"That's the beauty of overtime," Briere said. "You can't make any mistakes. One mistake can end it all."

The Lightning's last mistake cost it dearly. Lightning coach Jon Cooper said his team "hung (Lindback) out to dry" on the final goal by not covering Weise.

Montreal outshot the Lighting, 44-25, but goaded Lindback, the starter with Vezina Trophy candidate Ben Bishop out with an arm injury, into one of his finest career games in his first playoff start.

The Canadiens controlled play in overtime, as they had in much of regulation, although the Lightning managed occasional dangerous counterattacks because of superior speed. Lightning center Nate Thompson was alone with Canadiens goaltender Carey Price at close range with 12 minutes left in overtime, but his attempt to score through the pads hit Price's stick.

"That's the type of situation you want to be in as a goaltender," said Price, who finished with 21 saves.

Two energizing goals from center Steven Stamkos were not enough to rescue Tampa Bay, whose youthful nucleus overcame a wobbly first period to enter the third period tied at 2.

Montreal reassumed control early in the third and took its first lead with 14:50 left when center Lars Eller skated unopposed through the offensive zone and scored. Right winger Brian Gionta earned an assist.

"We had our chances, they had their chances," Cooper said. "I thought our best period was the overtime period. We kept shooting ourselves in the foot time and time again. We did it on the winning goal and on countless other plays. We have a young team and we have fought through it, but we played hard. Both teams played hard."

The Lightning responded 2:01 later when center Alex Killorn flung a shot through the pads of Price. Center Tyler Johnson was awarded an assist on a back pass that seemed to have been directed to Killorn by a Montreal defender.

Left winger Thomas Vanek scored on a 2-on-2 rush with 8:30 left to give Montreal a 4-3 lead, beating defenseman Eric Brewer to the slot and poking in a deft pass from the wing by center David Desharnais. Defenseman Alexei Emelin added an assist.

Stamkos' second goal of the game tied the score at 4, with 6:33 left when he pushed in a cross-crease pass from Killorn on a breakout. Killorn started the play by tipping the puck from defenseman Mike Weaver along the dasher and breaking in along the wing as Stamkos jetted down the middle of the ice.

Stamkos gave the Lightning to a 2-1 lead with 6:36 left in the second period with a rip from the right faceoff circle. The Lightning captain had blazed past left winger Brandon Prust in the neutral zone and corralled the rolling puck to fire a wrist shot before Emelin could cut off his angle.

The Canadiens equalized with a short-hander from Gionta with 3:21 left in the period, as he took a long pass from Eller to beat Stamkos up the wing and center Valtteri Filppula to the net and pop in a rebound after Lindback snuffed his initial shot.

"We came out tentative and didn't want to make mistakes," Killorn said. "But as the game went on we got more comfortable but the turnovers at the blueline cost us. We know we have a lot to build on here."

Rookie right winger Nikita Kucherov gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead with 9:51 left in the first period when he wristed a shot from the slot under an attempted block by defenseman Josh Gorges. After several minutes of Montreal puck domination, Tampa Bay cued the sequence with a deep blast from defenseman Radko Gudas that Price intentionally allowed to hit the back boards. But the puck took a wild carom back in front, where right winger J.T. Brown collected it, moved to the wing, then found Kucherov rushing the net.

Montreal responded to tie the score just 19 seconds later, however, when center Tomas Plekanec weaved through the offensive zone and snapped a shot over Lindback's left shoulder from near the left face-off circle.

NOTES: Canadiens C Lars Eller had missed the last three regular season games with the flu. .... Montreal F Alex Galchenyuk (lower-body injury) will miss the first round. ... Montreal LW Brandon Prust (upper-body injury) had missed the last 12 games. ... Lightning rookie RW Nikita Kucherov's goal was the first for any player in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. ... Eight Lightning players made their NHL playoff debut. ... Lightning C Steven Stamkos has five points (three goals) in his last four postseason games dating back to the 2011 NHL Playoffs.... The Lightning won 50 of 86 faceoffs (58 percent). ... Lightning D Radko Gudas led all skaters with nine hits. Tampa Bay out-hit the Canadiens, 40-27.

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