MONTREAL — In a fourth straight start for the Montreal Canadiens, Sam Montembeault gave his team a chance to get revenge in the second of back-to-back games against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Montembeault made 31 saves as Montreal (28-37-6) registered a second win in their last 10 games, beating the visiting Lightning 3-2.
With 5:05 remaining in the second period, the 26-year-old made two big saves to keep Montreal in the lead. The Habs netminder robbed Lightning defenceman Nick Perbix with the tip of his pad before making another save to ice the puck.
Mike Matheson thanked his goalie just over two minutes later with what proved to be the game-winning goal on a wrist shot from the point to close out the second. Montembeault and the Habs held off a third period rally to earn the win.
“Sam played tremendous,” said Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis. “I think everybody played well. I can’t think of a guy that wasn’t that good tonight. So when you have everybody on board, we’re hard to play against.”
“The goalie is part of the game, we've seen that on our end many times, where (Andrei Vasilevskiy) does the exact same thing,” added Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “I thought (Montembeault) was their best player tonight.”
Kirby Dach scored after missing 16 games with a lower-body injury. Jonathan Drouin and Mike Matheson added goals for Montreal. Nick Suzuki collected two assists.
The Canadiens lost 5-3 on Saturday to the Lightning in Tampa Bay, Fla.
St. Louis took a broader approach when asked about his appreciation of the game. The home-and-home games against a team like Tampa was good for his team’s development process.
“I liked our game. It was fun because we played against the same team as the last game,” said St. Louis. “We had a lot of examples and you can really show the aspects to work on and how we want to show up against them and the things that we want to do."
“We did a lot of video. Marty did a really good job to make sure we were ready tonight,” Montembeault said. “It’s fun playing back-to-back against them, you know what they’re going to do so you can focus on yourself.”
Brayden Point and Pat Maroon scored as the Lightning (42-24-6) dropped back-to-back games.
Vasilevskiy made 17 saves for the Bolts.
“Everything they touched went in the net,” Cooper said. “We, for some reason, lost our scoring touch tonight so that's a tough one for us.”
Dach broke the ice on his first game back from injury. The forward took a shot from the slot but Vasilevskiy mishandled the puck. Dach had enough time to circle the netminder and tap in the opening goal.
Drouin doubled Montreal’s lead 14 minutes into the first when he received a cross-ice pass from Denis Gurianov and beat the Tampa netminder over the glove with a wrist shot.
The Lightning got on the board at 8:58 of the second period on the power play. Point accepted Steven Stamkos’ pass and stunned Montembeault with a one-timer from the left faceoff circle.
Following Montembeault's two saves on Perbix, Matheson gave Montreal a 3-1 lead. The defenceman launched a wrist shot from the point, which deflected off former Hab Mikhail Sergachev and past Vasilevskiy.
Tampa cut Montreal’s lead to one goal at 14:54 of the third period thanks to Montreal defenceman Justin Barron’s failed clearance. Corey Perry intercepted the puck and sent it toward the crease where Maroon tapped in his third goal of the season.
Montreal held on for the final minutes of the third to give their home crowd the win.
In the final seconds of the game, Mikhail Sergachev pushed Josh Anderson into Tampa’s empty net. The Montreal forward collided with the post and was helped off the ice.
The Canadiens later announced that Anderson is undergoing further testing and will miss the trip to Boston as the team takes on the Bruins on Thursday.
The Habs also announced that defenceman Kaiden Guhle’s season is over. He is ruled out with a high-ankle sprain.
GALLAGHER, DACH RETURN
The Montreal Canadiens welcomed back two key pieces of their roster back from lengthy injuries. Forwards Brendan Gallagher and Kirby Dach both returned from their respective lower-body injuries.
Gallagher played only his second game since the turn of the year after being absent since Jan. 3. Dach was originally diagnosed with a non-COVID illness that had him sidelined since Feb. 16 but after further testing the illness symptoms were revealed to be related to a lower-body injury.
“This was a fun first game back and I enjoyed it,” Gallagher said. “It's been a long overdue experience for me, so I just had fun tonight and it was enjoyable.”
Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin has been playing some of his best hockey since the turn of the year. The 27-year-old has picked up 19 points (two goals, 17 assists) in 23 games since the start of 2023.
The Canadiens visit the Boston Bruins on Thursday.
The Lightning take on the Senators in Ottawa on Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2023.
Tristan D'Amours, The Canadian Press