The Montreal Canadiens can’t seem to win at home lately. A visit from the league’s worst road team could be coming at the perfect time.
The Canadiens hope to avoid their first six-game home losing streak in more than seven years Tuesday night when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning for the first time this season.
Montreal (14-11-4) had little trouble on home ice earlier this season, gaining at least a point in seven of its first nine games en route to a 5-2-2 mark at the Bell Centre. Since then, however, they have been outscored 21-8 during an 0-4-1 skid there.
Rookie Carey Price allowed four goals on 30 shots through two periods in Montreal’s 5-1 loss to visiting Carolina on Saturday.
“I think he knows he needs to be better but he’s a 20-year-old who’s still learning a lot, and on that he’s probably ahead of the curve,” Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau said. “But unfortunately, in the situation we’re in, we need him and everyone to play well.”
The loss left the Canadiens with a 2-5-1 record in their last eight games. They have scored one goal or fewer in half of those contests.
Price made his third straight start in place of top goaltender Cristobal Huet, who is still sidelined with a groin pull. Huet will not play Tuesday but could return by the weekend. Jaroslav Halak will back up Price.
Montreal hasn’t lost six straight at home since dropping seven in a row from Oct. 28-Nov. 25, 2000.
Several of the Canadiens’ top forwards are struggling, none more than captain Saku Koivu, who has one goal in 17 games. Left wing Chris Higgins, meanwhile, has been Montreal’s most consistent producer lately by tallying six goals and three assists in his last 10 games.
While Montreal’s home woes are a recent occurrence, Tampa Bay has played poorly on the road all season.
The Lightning (13-14-3) lost their first seven road games before a 2-0-1 run offered a glimpse of hope. Getting outscored 19-7 during a current four-game road skid, however, proves Tampa Bay is a long way from solving its problems.
Toronto scored four second-period goals and the Lightning never recovered in a 6-1 loss Monday.
Richards’ status was unclear after the game, but the Lightning were optimistic the injury wasn’t serious. The team considered putting him back in the game for the third period, but decided to be cautious.
Richards is tied for third on the team with 28 points in 30 games this season.
“You know, it was 4-1 for Toronto,” Lecavalier said. “It’s good he stayed off, and hopefully he’ll be better for tomorrow.”
Johan Holmqvist was pulled in the second period Monday after giving up four goals on 22 shots. He figures to be back in net for this game because backup Marc Denis is 0-5-0 with a 4.64 goals-against average in his last five starts dating to last season.
The Canadiens have won six of their last eight games against the Lightning, including two straight at home.