Brayden Point leads Lightning to win over Montreal
TAMPA — When Brayden Point poked the puck into the offensive zone, he found himself surrounded by four Canadiens uniforms.
No big deal.
The Lightning’s leading goal scorer used his speed to weave through traffic and put a move on defenseman Joel Edmundson before sliding the puck under his stick. He set himself up to whip a wrist shot past goaltender Jake Allen, leaving 19,902 jaws dropped at Amalie Arena on Wednesday night and giving Tampa Bay a three-goal second-period lead.
Point picked up where he left off before the Lightning’s week-long holiday break, netting two goals in Tampa Bay’s commanding 4-1 win.
“It’s determination,” coach Jon Cooper said of Point’s second goal of the night. “It’s impressive, just his will to succeed. And to me, the game had got a little bit loose and he’s a difference-maker. Difference-makers do things like that.”
The Lightning’s top-line center has a team-high 19 goals, including 13 in his last 14 games. That stretch includes four two-goal games, and Point has scored in seven of his last nine.
Point said he benefited from a fortunate bounce on his highlight-reel goal, saying he was able to recover from a bad pass attempt when he reached out and corralled the puck with his stick in his left hand, his right hand on the ice offering balance. Point then hit another gear through a small hole through the slot, the puck dancing with his stick blade before he cut in front and beat Allen on the goalie’s glove side.
“I’m trying to get the puck, really,” Point said. “It happens quick. It’s more reaction. It’s just trying to find space, I think.”
Point scored a similarly dazzling goal two weeks ago against Seattle, when he took on three Kraken defensemen on his way to the net before scoring on a backhand.
“I had a front-row seat for both of them,” said defenseman Victor Hedman, who had two assists against the Canadiens. “It’s just amazing. Just the edge work he has and to be able to put that in, it’s pretty remarkable. He’s a special player.”
Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped the first 25 shots he faced and picked up his 10th win in his past 14 starts. He became the third goaltender to win 11 straight games against the Canadiens and the first since 1941.
Back on home ice following a six-day break for the holidays, it didn’t take long for the Lightning (21-11-1) to show that they had their legs back after suffering a pair of frustrating road losses on back-to-back nights last week going into their break.
They took a quick lead against the Canadiens with two first-period goals and never looked back.
Playing the first of three games in four days to round out December, the Lightning struck quickly on forward Alex Killorn’s goal 1:55 into the game.
Hedman sped into the offensive zone chasing down a Montreal turnover and initially was denied a goal on a tight-angle shot below the right circle. But he recovered the puck off the end boards and made a backhanded pass to the slot, where Killorn beat Allen five-hole.
The Lightning scored next on a power play. Point rifled a wrister from the right hashmark on a touch-pass feed from forward Nikita Kucherov, burying his shot top shelf far post over Allen’s blocker side with 5:51 left in the first.
“I thought we came out skating, and it’s a big part of our team,” Point said. “When we’re playing our best, we’re moving our legs, and I think in the first period and definitely the first few shifts, we were doing that and kind of set the tone for us.”
After Point’s second goal, Brandon Hagel scored his fifth in his last five games on a rebound in front of the net 8:31 into the third.
The Lightning penalty kill was 5-for-5 on the night, extending a strong stretch in which it is 29-for-31 in December.
The Lightning benefited from getting two extra days off after their game scheduled for Friday in Buffalo was postponed because of the approaching winter storm.
“Those two extra days were huge for us, just that chance to reset,” Cooper said. “You don’t get those often in this league. With the amount of games we’ve played over the past three seasons, you give us five days off and we’ll take advantage of it. Heal up a bit here, clear the mind, and the guys came back with excitement, and they showed it (Wednesday).”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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