MONTREAL — Cedric Paquette hung his head and spoke even more quietly than usual Tuesday night.
It was his tripping penalty that led to the winning power-play goal in the Canadiens' 4-3 win at the Bell Centre that ousted Tampa Bay from the playoffs in a four-game sweep.
"It was a bad play," the Lightning's rookie center, playing just his sixth NHL game, said of using his stick to pull the leg of Montreal's Michael Bournival with whom he had been wrestling in a corner of the offensive zone. "I just tried to be too aggressive."
Max Pacioretty made the Lightning pay when he swatted the puck through the legs of goalie Kristers Gudlevskis with 42.6 seconds left in the third period.
The goal ruined a dramatic Tampa Bay comeback in which third-period goals by Victor Hedman, who from behind the goal line banked the puck in off the back of Montreal goalie Carey Price, and Tyler Johnson overcame a two-goal deficit and tied the score 3-3 with 13:29 left.
"I hope nobody out there looks at Cedric Paquette and says he's the goat," coach Jon Cooper said. "He had a plethora of chances himself. He made his linemates better. He punished their team every time he was on the ice. It's a game of bounces and a game of breaks."
Montreal got a huge one on the winning goal as Thomas Vanek's shot hit the foot of Tampa Bay defenseman Andrej Sustr and dribbled to Pacioretty who had a step on Hedman in front of the net.
"If we were going to go down we were going to go down swinging and I thought we went down swinging," Cooper said. "There were 21,000 fans who were a little nervous in the third period."
No doubt, but the first two periods, again exposed some of the Lightning's weaknesses, mainly puck possession issues and bad defensive play.
Mark Barberio's blown defensive-zone coverage led to Montreal's first goal and Paquette's neutral-zone turnover contributed to its second.
Unlike injured goalie Ben Bishop, Anders Lindback could not always hold the fort. He was pulled 5:42 into the second period after allowing three goals on 20 shots, two of which he should have stopped.
The second was most damaging as Brendan Gallagher beat him long side with what seemed an unobstructed shot from above the right faceoff dot to make the score 3-1 5:42 into the second period.
That came just was just 70 seconds after Ondrej Palat gave Tampa Bay some life with a shorthanded wraparound goal.
Gudlevskis entered at that point and had 16 saves on 17 shots, including several on odd-man rushes and a breakaway.
"For a guy who hasn't played much, in a building like this and series on the line, he showed great composure and stood in there and gave us a chance," right wing Ryan Callahan said.
The same could be said of the entire team, which had 12 players make their Stanley Cup playoff debuts and which, after going down 2-0 in the first period while being outshot 15-6, could have packed it in.
"Credit our guys for staying with it and giving ourselves a chance," captain Steven Stamkos said.
"But to come into the playoffs on a high," Johnson said, "and not play our game for the full four games, that's disappointing."
Also disappointing to the Lightning was that Paquette's penalty, only the third in the game, was called so late in the contest.
"The coaching staff was a little animated in the room after," Cooper said. "It's unfortunate it has to come down to a call with two minutes left. But, ultimately, you've got to kill them off and we didn't."
Even so, "I couldn't have been more proud to coach that team," Cooper said.
"He's the first guy I'm going to hug in the room."
First Period—1, Montreal, Briere 1 (Weise, Bournival), 2:24. 2, Montreal, Eller 2 (Gionta), 15:21. Penalties—Bourque, Mon (holding stick), 6:18.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Palat 2, 4:32 (sh). 4, Montreal, Gallagher 3 (Plekanec, Gorges), 5:42. Penalties—Stamkos, TB (hooking), 2:39.
Third Period—5, Tampa Bay, Hedman 1 (Palat, Kostka), 3:29. 6, Tampa Bay, Johnson 1 (Brown, Paquette), 6:31. 7, Montreal, Pacioretty 1 (Vanek, Subban), 19:17 (pp). Penalties—Paquette, TB (tripping), 17:49. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 6-7-10—23. Montreal 15-14-8—37. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 1; Montreal 1 of 2. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Lindback (20 shots-17 saves), Gudlevskis 0-1-0 (5:42 second, 17-16). Montreal, Price 4-0-0 (23-20). A—21,273 (21,273). T—2:31. Referees—Chris Lee, Francois St. Laurent. Linesmen—Greg Devorski, Derek Nansen.