TAMPA, Fla. – After the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning combined for 11 goals in four regular-season meetings, Dale Weise didn’t expect them to score eight in the first 60 minutes of Game 1 Wednesday night.
“But that’s playoffs, anything can happen,” he said.
Anything, including Weise scoring his first career Stanley Cup playoff goal and first NHL overtime winner to give the Habs a 5-4 victory at Tampa Bay Times Forum and a 1-0 lead in the Atlantic Division semifinal series.
“I can’t remember the last time I had an overtime goal, so that one feels real good,” Weise said.
It was the kind of back-and-forth affair that bred unpredictability. The Lightning scored four times against Carey Price on 16 shots in regulation, and it seemed like any and every shot could go in.
In overtime, the margin for error was almost non-existent. But that’s exactly what playoff star Daniel Briere wanted to embrace.
“You have to be ready, and that’s the beauty of overtime,” said Briere, who set Weise up for the winner 18:08 into overtime. “You can’t make any mistakes. One shot can end it all.”
Tampa Bay’s Teddy Purcell and Montreal’s Max Pacioretty were close to doing it, but were thwarted by a diving Josh Gorges and the clank of the left post behind Anders Lindback, respectively. Ultimately, that shot belonged to Weise, who earlier in overtime might not have been in position to take it.
“We had about two or three similar chances just before and the last shift I kind of backed off on a play. I didn’t want to get caught,” Weise said. “I came to the bench and (assistant coach Gerard Gallant) said, ‘Don’t be afraid to jump in on that one,’ and that’s what I did. (Michael Bournival) and Danny make a great play there, and I won’t miss too many from there.”
Weise and Briere were the heroes, but the game’s previous 78 minutes had plenty of players putting on an offensive show. Steven Stamkos scored twice to go along with Tampa Bay goals by Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn, while Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta, Lars Eller and Thomas Vanek scored for the Habs.
The goals were even at four apiece at the end of regulation, but the shots were far from it. The Habs had 35 to the Lightning’s 16, taking it to a Tampa Bay team that was so good at puck possession during the regular season.
Michel Therrien’s team just wanted to play a “solid road game” and got that job done.
“We kept our composure. We didn’t want to get out of our game plan,” Therrien said. “The guys stuck to the game plan and they got rewarded at the end. That’s the way I see it.”
The game didn’t go the way some envisioned, specifically after these teams had such low-scoring matchups before. Price said he was not surprised but instead was frustrated he allowed four goals.
“Every game’s different and you never know what’s going to happen out there,” Price said. “It’s tough as a goaltender when teams are capitalizing on scoring chances and they’re getting so few.”
Price was at his best in overtime when he stopped all nine Lightning shots. Tampa had more shots in overtime than in any of the three previous periods but couldn’t cash in.
“I thought probably overtime was one of our better periods we played in that game,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “(But) we kept shooting ourselves in the foot time and time again.”
Mistakes made it a fun game, as eight Lightning players were making their playoff debut at the NHL level. The Habs had only one in Bournival.
The inexperience of youth was noticeable at times.
“We came out tentative and didn’t want to make mistakes, but as the game went on we got more comfortable,” Killorn said. “The turnovers at the blue-line cost us.”
At the end of the night, one defensive-zone mistake cost the Lightning and allowed the Habs to steal the first game on the road. Naturally it was Briere who knew what to expect in overtime and record his 110th playoff point in his 109th career playoff game.
“You just have to stay focused,” Briere said. “I had the feeling that something good was going to happen. Our line had too many scoring chances that at some point we were going to get a good result.”
NOTES—Brandon Prust returned to the Habs’ lineup after missing the final 12 games of the regular season with a shoulder injury. … Defencemen Douglas Murray and Jarred Tinordi and forwards George Parros, Alex Galchenyuk, Travis Moen and Ryan White were scratched for Montreal. … Lightning forward Ondrej Palat did not take a shift after one early in the third period because of an upper-body injury. Cooper said he would be re-evaluated Thursday. … Gaspe, Que., native Cedric Paquette made his playoff debut after playing his first NHL game, Tampa Bay’s 81st of the regular season.