TAMPA — There was no sugarcoating the significance of Monday's game for the Lightning when it came to the standings.
Tampa Bay was hosting a reeling Canadiens team that had lost six straight (and nine of 10), with a chance to narrow the four-point gap in the Atlantic Division.
That's why this 4-3 shootout loss to Montreal stung so much for Tampa Bay and stunned a sellout crowd of 19,092 at Amalie Arena. The Lightning had rallied from a third-period deficit to take a one-goal lead with six minutes to go. But Tampa Bay blew it, and instead of gaining two points, it lost one, falling five back of Montreal, which took first place.
"That wasn't good enough," wing Ryan Callahan said. "We've got a lead like that at home that late, we've got to hold onto it. You want those two points. It's a costly one to give away."
The Lightning (18-15-4) appeared headed for a frustratingly familiar regulation defeat, trailing 2-1 late in the third period. Tampa Bay, after all, had lost eight games when allowing two goals or fewer this season, seven in regulation.
But defenseman Jason Garrison scored on a wraparound, his second in two games, to tie it with 6 minutes, 39 seconds to go. Twenty-one seconds later, Callahan snapped a 22-game goal drought with a tiebreaking tally, which withstood a challenge for potential goalie interference.
"Hopefully that's a weight off my back," Callahan said.
"That should have been the game winner," captain Steven Stamkos said.
But it wasn't. On the next shift, Dale Weise tied it back up, bumping goalie Ben Bishop in the crease before putting the puck past him. The Lightning challenged to no avail.
"I thought it was interference," Bishop said. "He goes to the crease, he hits me in the head, he scores the goal, Obviously they thought different. He doesn't hit me in the head, I make the save."
Either way, shifts after goals are arguably the most important in each game, and Stamkos took the blame for letting a lead slip away.
"I'm (ticked) at myself, our line for giving up that goal the next shift," Stamkos said. "It's unacceptable."
The Lightning lamented many quality scoring chances it squandered Monday, with Canadiens goalie Mike Condon stellar in making 36 saves. There were also opportunities like when Anton Stralman fanned on an open net. "There's some pucks we have on our stick that have to go into the net," coach Jon Cooper said.
But the Lightning's execution was off, like it has been all too often this season.
"When you don't play a full 60-minute game, it's tough to win in this league," Bishop said. "We take the first period off and come back and play well in the second period. It's too little, too late. We've got to play a full game, we can't just sit here and turn it on, turn it off, turn it on, turn it off, whenever we kind of feel like it. It puts us in a hole and that's what happens."
Contact Joe Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.
|Canadiens win shootout 2-1|
First—1, Montreal, Plekanec 8 (Subban, Andrighetto), 15:58. Penalties—Killorn, TB (hooking), 2:03; Plekanec, Mon (delay of game), 20:00.
Second—2, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 13 (Filppula, Stralman), 5:40 (pp). 3, Montreal, Galchenyuk 9 (Markov, Petry), 9:57. Penalties—Markov, Mon (hooking), 5:15.
Third—4, Tampa Bay, Garrison 4 (Killorn), 13:21. 5, Tampa Bay, Callahan 5 (Filppula, Sustr), 13:42. 6, Montreal, Weise 11 (Desharnais, Pacioretty), 14:14. Penalties—Mitchell, Mon (hooking), 15:32.
Shootout—Montreal 2 (Galchenyuk NG, Flynn G, Pacioretty G), Tampa Bay 1 (Marchessault NG, Filppula G, Kucherov NG). Shots on Goal—Montreal 14-8-10-2—34. Tampa Bay 11-16-11-1—39. Power-play opportunities—Montreal 0 of 1; Tampa Bay 1 of 3. Goalies—Montreal, Condon 10-9-3 (39 shots-36 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop 15-11-3 (34-31). A—19,092 (19,204). T—3:00.