An improbable win concluded a successful road trip for the Montreal Canadiens. They’d probably prefer that their postseason push not be as dramatic.
With the regular season quickly winding down, the Canadiens look to improve their playoff position as they face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.
Montreal (32-29-6) is opening a three-game homestand after defeating Anaheim 4-3 in a shootout Sunday night, the finale of a 3-1-0 road trip. The Canadiens rallied with goals by Brian Gionta(notes) and Andrei Markov(notes) in the final 1:50 of the third period, and Tomas Plekanec(notes) added the shootout winner in the fourth round.
That vaulted Montreal over Boston into seventh place in the Eastern Conference, two points behind Philadelphia and seven behind Ottawa. The Canadiens, with 15 contests remaining, have played more games than any other team in the league.
Plekanec continues to lead Montreal as it tries to advance to the playoffs for the third straight season. After ending a four-game point drought with an empty-net goal in a 4-2 win over Los Angeles on Saturday night, he found the back of the net at 7:48 of the second period versus the Ducks to start the comeback.
The veteran center has a team-high 62 points (19 goals, 43 assists), but has one goal and one assist in his last seven games against the Lightning (27-26-11).
Tampa Bay has earned points in eight straight games against Montreal, going 5-0-3. The Lightning lead the season series 2-0-1, but trail the Canadiens by five points.
Montreal has been held to three goals in the three games against Tampa Bay in 2009-10, and Brian Gionta has two of them. He has goals in each of his last three games overall and also scored to extend the shootout against Anaheim.
Gionta has reached the 20-goal mark for the sixth time in his career.
Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos(notes) has a particularly impressive streak going, posting points in a franchise-record 16 consecutive games (15 goals, 14 assists). The second-year right wing had two goals - giving him 40 for the season - and added an assist in the Lightning’s 6-2 win over Atlanta on Saturday night.
“He’s a special guy,” coach Rick Tocchet said. “The guy thrives with ice time.”
Another big game from Stamkos helped Tampa Bay end a five-game losing streak. Stamkos, though, has one goal and one assist in seven games versus the Canadiens.
Lightning veteran Martin St. Louis(notes) has five goals and six assists in his last nine games against Montreal. He had a goal and two assists against the Thrashers before leaving with 7:46 left after being checked into the boards.
St. Louis, though, isn’t expected to miss any time.
“I think he’s going to be OK,” Tocchet said. “It was a scary moment there.”
St. Louis has a team-best 78 points (23 goals, 55 assists), two shy of matching his total from last season. St. Louis has 11 goals and 15 assists over his last 17 games.
Steve Downie(notes) has also had a strong run for the Lightning, posting five goals and eight assists during a career-best 10-game point streak. Downie had two assists in Tampa Bay’s 3-0 win over Montreal on Jan. 27, the teams’ last meeting.