TAMPA, Fla. (AP)—The Montreal Canadiens took care of the Stanley Cup champions in a quick third-period flash.
Zednik put Montreal ahead 3-2 from in close at 3:16. Ribeiro made it a two-goal game at 6:42 before Kovalev put the Canadiens ahead 5-2 at 8:56. Jan Bulis closed the scoring with a breakaway goal with 3:03 remaining.
“We came out strong and ended strong,” Zednik said. “You can’t ask for much better hockey than that. I thought we really showed a lot of character tonight, by sticking to our guns.”
Rookie center Christopher Higgins scored two goals for the Canadiens, who moved within two points of seventh-place Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference. Cristobal Huet made 27 saves for Montreal, 6-0-2 in its last eight games.
“Every game is pivotal, but we are at the point we are getting better and gaining the kind of momentum that you need at this point of the season,” forward Michael Ryder said. “This is the kind of test that you need, especially when you end strong.”
“Those two games we have to grab a hold of it,” forward Brad Richards said. “It’s not the end of the world yet. We just have to make sure we nip it right away.”
John Grahame, one of the U.S. Olympic goalies, allowed all six Canadiens goals on 22 shots.
“Was our goaltending good? No, it wasn’t,” Lightning coach John Tortorella said. “But we can’t start looking at the goaltending.
“If we are going to look at pointing fingers and blame, you know what happens. That’s what disturbs me the most.”
The Lightning came in with the NHL’s fourth-worst power-play unit and it didn’t show any signs of improvement against Montreal. Tampa Bay was 1-for-8 on the advantage overall and 0-for-7 through two periods.
“We’ve got to come to work and try to figure out how to take control of a game with our power play,” Richards said. “Until we do that it’s going to be a dogfight every night.”
Higgins scored from the low left circle just 12 seconds into the game. He made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 4:54 of the second period.
“Any time you can get some momentum going for yourselves, it is a confidence builder,” Higgins said. “You want to keep it up as much as you can for as long as you can. This was another test for us. We feel like we are doing the things it takes to win games right now.”
Fedotenko got the Lightning within 2-1 with 3:25 left in the second. Lecavalier’s power-play goal tied it at 2 only 55 seconds into the third.
Higgins, who has 11 goals this season, had his second two-goal game this week. The Long Island native also scored twice close to home in Montreal’s 5-3 road victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday. … Higgins’ first goal on Saturday was the fastest scored against the Lightning to start a game. It topped the previous mark of 13 seconds, set by Mike Craig of the Minnesota North Stars on Nov. 19, 1992. … Richards had an assist on Lecavalier’s goal, extending his point streak to eight games. He has 11 assists and 14 points during the stretch.