Montreal (20-9-6) at Tampa Bay (10-16-9)

Cloudy Currently: Tampa, FL
Temp: 80° F
  • Game info: 7:30 pm EST Tue Dec 30, 2008
  • TV: RDS, SUN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Tampa Bay Lightning are enjoying one of their best runs of the season, but their next opponent is even hotter.

Tampa Bay seeks a season-high fourth straight win Tuesday night when it faces the surging Montreal Canadiens at St. Pete Times Forum.

Although still among the league’s worst teams, the Lightning (10-16-9) have been better lately, winning three straight to move out of last place in the Southeast Division.

Scoring goals has been the biggest problem this season for Tampa Bay, but the Lightning had their best offensive output of the season Saturday in a 6-4 victory over Florida.

“It’s just good we got the victory,” said captain Vincent Lecavalier, who scored twice and has a team-leading 14 goals. “It’s three in a row and good for our confidence. Hopefully it carries on.”

With 15 goals, Tampa Bay has its best four-game stretch of the season but still ranks near the bottom of the NHL with 2.34 goals per game.

A resurgent power play has contributed to the team’s modest run of success. After going scoreless on 27 straight man-advantage opportunities, the Lightning have converted on four of the last 22 chances.

“We’ve been going good lately,” right wing Martin St. Louis said. “The last three games, I really feel guys are on the same page. The most we’ve been on the same page all year. You can see it in the results.”

Mike Smith is expected to make a seventh straight start in net and first career appearance against the Canadiens (20-9-6). The last time Smith didn’t start was Dec. 11, when Olaf Kolzig made 31 saves in a 3-1 win at Montreal.

That defeat triggered a three-game losing streak for the Canadiens, but they have rebounded to go 4-0-1 in their last five contests.

Maxim Lapierre scored the game’s final three goals for his first career hat trick in Montreal’s 5-2 victory at Florida on Tuesday.

“There are night you’re alone with the goalie and nothing goes in and other nights where it seems the puck always finds your stick at the right time,” Lapierre said. “That’s what happened tonight.”

A renewed offense has helped Montreal rebound, and Monday marked the third time the Canadiens have scored four or more goals in their last five games.

They have scored 19 times in that span after tallying nine goals during a 1-3-1 stretch. Montreal has also converted six of its last 24 power-play opportunities.

Alexei Kovalev has scored four times in the last six games and has 12 points in his last 12. Nine other players have goals for the Canadiens during their last five contests, including Andrei Kostitsyn’s hat trick in a 3-2 win Saturday at Pittsburgh.

Since returning from a lower-body injury, Montreal netminder Carey Price is 2-0-1 while allowing seven goals in three games. The Canadiens have recorded at least one point in each of Price’s last 11 starts, going 7-0-4 during that stretch.

With games on consecutive nights, Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau could start backup Jaroslav Halak against Tampa Bay. Halak, who has won his last two overall starts, was in net for Montreal’s loss to Tampa Bay earlier this month.

The Lightning have won two straight overall against the Canadiens and two out of the last three at home.

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Tuesday, Dec 30