MONTREAL – Jacques Martin refused to blame the referees for the Montreal Canadiens’ loss in their 102nd home opener.
The Bell Centre fans were less charitable.
Steven Stamkos scored a disputed goal on a power play with 1:19 left in the third period and Ryan Malone scored 4:09 into overtime to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 4-3 comeback victory Wednesday.
The 21,273 spectators were upset that after a period in which no penalties were called through the first 18 minutes, referee Don VanMassenhoven sent P.K. Subban off for slashing with 2:12 left in a game the Canadiens led 3-2.
Then Dustin Boyd seemed to be fouled by Malone as he tried to clear the puck from in front of the Montreal net, but there was no call and Stamkos was there to bang in his third of the season from the slot.
Fans littered the ice with debris and booed.
”I was grabbing the rebound and was going to get the puck out when he just took me out,” said Boyd.
But Martin was in no mood to blame the officials or letting the rookie Subban off the hook.
The Lightning outshot Montreal 47-27, and only solid goaltending from Carey Price kept the home team in a game marked by sloppy passing and defensive play.
”The referees have a job to do—we have to look at the things we can control,” said Martin. ”With two minutes left, when you check a player your stick has to be on the ice.
”These are lessons learned through experience.”
Maxim Lapierre and Tomas Plekanec gave Montreal a 2-0 first-period lead and, after Brett Clark and Martin St. Louis scored for the Bolts, Andrei Kostitsyn put Montreal ahead 11:25 into the third frame.
The Canadiens fell to 1-1-1 while the Lightning improved to 2-0-0 under new coach Guy Boucher, who made his first visit since he was hired away from Montreal’s AHL farm team in Hamilton.
Boucher had high praise for the gritty six-foot-four Malone.
”He’s been big for us in every game starting in the pre-season,” he said. ”I love that guy.
”He’s smart. He’s reliable. He’s a guy you need to win games in tight moments.”
Malone flipped a loose puck past Price as Tampa Bay erased two Montreal leads.
”I just try to go into the traffic and find that garbage,” said Malone, who also had an assist. ”We all believe in each other and the system.
”If there’s a minute left and we need a goal, we believe we can get it.”
Price was Montreal’s best player for a second game in a row after his 36-save effort in a 3-2 win Saturday in Pittsburgh.
The Canadiens struck first at 5:22 after the puck came to Lapierre after some strong corner work from Lars Eller and the right-winger beat Mike Smith with a high wrist shot.
The teams were each down a man when Michael Cammalleri took a shot on a rush and then slipped the rebound to Plekanec for a shot into an open side at 18:07.
The Canadiens’ penalty killers gave up their first goal in 15 chances this season when Clark’s point shot went off a skate and sailed past a screened Price 1:44 into the second frame.
The Lightning had another chance when Lapierre was given a major penalty for boarding Steve Downie, but they couldn’t beat Price.
St. Louis finally tied it when Stamkos’ shot off Subban went to him at the side of the net to score into an open side at 10:54 of the third.
Only 31 seconds later, Plekanec danced into the Lightning zone and fed Kostitsyn in front to deke Smith.
Notes: New Canadiens captain Brian Gionta got a big hand when he introduced his teammates before the game in French and English. . . With the return of defenceman Roman Hamrlik from a knee injury, Alexandre Picard sat out for Montreal along with forward Mathieu Darche. . . Tampa defenceman Mattias Ohlund (swollen knee) missed a second game for Tampa Bay. Rear guard Matt Smaby and Mattias Rotola, who was claimed off waivers from Detroit last week, were scratched. . . Montreal is 54-21-18 in home openers.