NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, December 29th (All times Eastern)
Montreal Canadiens (14-16-7) at Tampa Bay Lightning (15-17-3), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Thanks to an explosive offensive attack, the Canadiens finally gave head coach Randy Cunneyworth his first NHL win in their last trip to the ice. Montreal will try to keep the scoring going tonight, as it visits the Tampa Bay Lightning for a battle at St. Pete Times Forum.
The Canadiens had lost five in a row heading into Tuesday's game in Ottawa and the previous four came since Cunneyworth took over behind the bench for the fired Jacques Martin. Montreal ended the skid in convincing fashion on Tuesday, however, as the Habs trounced the Senators, 6-2, in Ottawa.
Lars Eller's short-handed goal in the first period started the offensive showcase for Montreal, which is 1-3 on a six-game road trip. The Canadiens scored five consecutive goals, starting with Eller's at 5:08 of the first period and ending with P.K. Subban's 5:53 into the second.
The outburst allowed Montreal to earn its first victory since December 13 against the New York Islanders. The Habs had scored only nine goals during their five-game slide and they bounced back from last Thursday's shutout in Winnipeg.
"I just wanted to get in there and contribute and it felt good to do that today. The whole team was going and we finally had a lot of bounces that went our way," Eller told the Canadiens official website. "The floodgates opened for us a little bit; we got one, then we got two and they just kept coming from there."
Carey Price made 33 saves in the win, improving his record to 12-12-7 this season. Despite the poor record, Price is sporting a solid 2.44 goals-against average and .914 save percentage this season.
"He's been doing a good job for us," Price said of Cunneyworth. "We haven't been playing up to par, so it was really good to be able to get that one for him."
Montreal is 9-9-1 on the road this season and will close its road trip Saturday against the Florida Panthers.
The Lightning also had a strong offensive showing in a home test against Philadelphia on Tuesday. Steven Stamkos netted a pair of goals, giving him 22 on the season to match Marian Gaborik of the New York Rangers for the NHL lead, and Tampa cruised to a 5-1 victory.
Mathieu Garon stopped 31-of-32 shots for the win. Garon began this season as the clear No. 2 option behind Dwayne Roloson, but he has taken over the job for now with 14 starts in Tampa Bay's last 16 outings.
Bruno Gervais, Steve Downie and Vincent Lecavalier also scored for the Lightning, who had dropped two in a row and four of six coming into the game before torching Flyers netminder Ilya Bryzgalov for five goals on just 16 shots.
"It was huge. We talked about what kind of game it was going to be, how strong offensively they were and how we needed to take away their time and space," Stamkos said. "It wasn't pretty out there but we'll take the win and hopefully it will lead to something good from here."
Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman left Tuesday's game after colliding with the end boards in the first period and did not return. He is not expected to play tonight. Fellow blueliner Eric Brewer also left the game briefly after taking several hard punches in a second-period fight with Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds, but he was able to return.
Tampa Bay, which is playing the middle portion of a three-game homestand tonight, is 9-5-0 as the host team this season.
This evening's test marks the first of four meetings between the Habs and Bolts this year. The clubs split four encounters in 2010-11 and each club has three victories in the last six matchups at the St. Pete Times Forum.
12/29 10:59:34 ET