MONTREAL – Back-up goalie Marc Denis proved to be the antidote for the Tampa Bay Lightning’s woes on the road.
Denis stopped all three Canadiens shooters while Brad Richards got the lone goal on rookie Carey Price as the Lightning posted a 3-2 shootout victory over Montreal on Tuesday night. It ended the Lightning’s five-game road losing run, including a 6-1 loss in Toronto on Monday night. They are now 3-11-1 away from home for the season.
“It’s huge, especially in the fashion we did it,” said Denis, who posted his first win in five starts this season.
The 30-year-old is now 8-2 for his career and has stopped 35 of 41 shots in shootouts.
“You have to play with an attitude in a shootout,” said Denis, who backed up Johan Holmqvist the last five games. “It’s so far, so good for me”.
“I haven’t played in that many in career considering how many games I’ve played (346), but they’re fun.” Vincent Lecavalier and Andre Roy also scored for the 14-14-3 Lightning.
Tomas Plekanec scored on his own rebound with 4:48 left in regulation time to tie the game for Montreal.
With the crowd of 21,273 in a roar, the Canadiens pressed hard for the go-ahead goal, but could not avoid overtime and the shootout.
Alex Kovalev also scored for the 14-11-5 Canadiens, who are winless in six straight at home, although two losses were by shootout, and are now 5-6-4 at the Bell Centre. The Canadiens have only two wins in their last nine games (2-5-2).
“We showed we can come back in a game and that’s something to build on,” said Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau, who had no response to the telling statistic of the game – 27 giveaways by Montreal, five by Tampa Bay.
The Lightning outshot Montreal 31-30.
Richards, Tampa Bay’s second shooter, skated in hard and beat Price with a wrist shot to the stick side.
“Doing things with speed is simple,” he said. “I don’t have the hands to do the dipsy-doodle.”
There were fears that Richards wouldn’t be able to play after bruising a knee in a fall into the boards in Toronto. But he had a brief skate Tuesday morning and felt OK to play.
“I’m lucky there was no structural damage,’ he said. “It was scary, but I think I dodged a bullet because nothing came unglued.” He also played a big role in a key penalty kill in overtime after Vaclav Prospal was sent off for tripping with 1:56 left to play, winning some key battles for pucks.
“We lost two games in overtime on the P.K. this year, so to get a kill was important,” he added.
The first period was a sloppy succession of turnovers and icings, with the highlights a missed chance in close by Montreal’s Chris Higgins and the Bolts’ Martin St. Louis ringing a shot off a goalpost.
Brad Lukowich was sent off for hooking 30 seconds into the second frame and Montreal’s league-leading power play needed only 17 seconds before Kovalev scored on a broken-stick shot from a bad angle that fooled Denis.
The Lightning took only 20 seconds into their power play a minute later for Lecavalier to score his 20th of the season on a rocket shot from the point.
Rookie defenceman Ryan O’Byrne misplayed a bouncing puck at the side of his net and the little-used Roy jumped on it to bag his second goal of the season at 8:58.
On Thursday the Lightning are back at home against Calgary, while Montreal visits Philadelphia.
Notes: Montreal’s Mark Streit celebrated his 30th birthday. . . Bryan Smolinski (knee), Steve Begin (shoulder), Cristobal Huet (groin) and Josh Gorges sat out for Montreal, while Craig MacDonald was scratched for Tampa Bay. Defenceman Dan Boyle is out long-term with a wrist injury.