MONTREAL — There's no guarantee general manager Steve Yzerman will be able to pull off a big move by Monday's trade deadline, though indications are the Lightning and Senators are working hard on a potential Erik Karlsson blockbuster.
And the Lightning's 4-3 shootout win over the Canadiens on Saturday night probably provided another indication to Yzerman that his team could use a defensive boost.
Tampa Bay did find a way to sweep its three-game trip, thanks to another brilliant performance by goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and another winner by Brayden Point. But there continued to be issues with turnovers, defensive-zone coverage and what coach Jon Cooper dubbed "high-risk" play. That's not a formula for a long playoff run.
"It's a hard league to win in, and they're finding ways," Cooper said of his players. "But you can't wait until the third (period), be down and expect every time you're going to come back."
The Lightning (42-17-3) is still in first place in the Atlantic Division, by four points over the Maple Leafs, who are in Tampa on Monday. And Tampa Bay has a month to straighten things out, with just six road games left on the schedule.
Captain Steven Stamkos said the players are happy with the team they have if Yzerman stands pat at the deadline but said it's exciting to be buyers instead of sellers.
Karlsson, a two-time Norris Trophy winner, is the big fish, but he is costly. Though Yzerman has said he doesn't intend to deal from his current roster, Canada's Sportsnet TV network reported Saturday that the Senators are insisting on an NHL player as part of a package. Point, Yanni Gourde and Vladislav Namestnikov were names Sportsnet mentioned.
It's hard to envision a scenario in which Point, an All-Star and 25-goal scorer, is moved. Gourde, a bargain at $1 million annually through next season, is someone Tampa Bay would be reluctant to deal. Namestnikov can be a restricted free agent this summer, and he might be hard for Tampa Bay to afford.
The Lightning has a deep prospect pool to work with, whether it's in a trade for Karlsson, the Rangers' Ryan McDonagh or someone else.
There were plenty of fireworks in Saturday's action-packed game. It's likely the first game in which both Stamkos and Victor Hedman fought. Stamkos' bout — the third of his 10-year career — came after Montreal defenseman Karl Alzner clipped the knee of Nikita Kucherov at mid ice. Stamkos said it was just a "reaction thing," having seen only part of Alzner's hit, which "wasn't as malicious as I thought," he said.
Stamkos got an instigator penalty and a misconduct penalty, putting him in the box for 17 minutes.
"Everybody on the bench got a lift from that," wing Ryan Callahan said.
Kucherov was okay and gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead midway through the second on a power-play one-timer. The Canadiens answered just over a minute later when Joe Morrow was left open above the right circle.
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Max Pacioretty was even more open on a late second-period power play that gave Montreal a 3-2 lead. It could have been a lot worse for Tampa Bay, which played some brutal hockey late in the period. Two turnovers led to odd-man rushes. Had it not been for sterling work by Vasilevskiy, Montreal could have blown open the game.
"They were just high risk all over the place," Cooper said of his players. "And they knew it."
The Lightning responded, with Cooper saying it was at its most responsible in the final 18 minutes of the third. Callahan scored a power-play goal to tie it, and the penalty kill stepped up before Point scored the only shootout goal. It was his third winner of the trip.
"Brayden Point was outstanding," Cooper said.
The trade deadline could be busy for the Lightning.
Said Callahan: "We'll have to wait and see."
|Lightning wins shootout 1-0|