TAMPA — Mathieu Garon was not about to say his effort Tuesday night against the Canadiens was his best of the season, but he did allow "it was up there."
After watching him make 23 saves in a 2-1 victory at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, his teammates weren't as nuanced.
" 'Gary' was great," center Steve Stamkos said.
"He was spectacular," center Adam Hall said. "We probably won the game because of him."
It was the kind of game for a goalie to stand tall. Tampa Bay (29-28-6) was depleted with six regulars out because of injury or illness. It also lost Ryan Malone 8:16 into the second period when he received a game misconduct for going after Alexei Emelin in retaliation for what he considered a cheap shot.
Four minor-leaguers were in the lineup. Defensemen Mike Commodore and Brian Lee and right wing Brandon Segal played their first games after being acquired in trades Monday.
So, after Stamkos in the first period scored his league-best 44th goal and Hall's first goal since opening night, 28 seconds into the second, broke a 1-1 tie, it was up to Garon.
"This is the best we could have gotten from these guys," coach Guy Boucher said. "I don't know how many American leaguers we had in there and new guys having no clue how we play jumping out there. Like we say to the players, we're in the business of doing the impossible, and that's what we needed to do."
The Lightning with its second straight win gained a point in the playoff race. It still is 11th in the Eastern Conference but just five points behind the Capitals for the eighth and final spot.
"We're not going to quit," Garon said. "We battle till the end like we've done the last month and a half. That's the way we're going to survive."
The Lightning, outshot 24-22, survived because it killed a five-minute, second-period Montreal power play that stemmed from Malone's altercation.
The Canadiens got just three shots on goal, but Garon had to come up big with left-leg saves on P.K. Subban's slap shot and Erik Cole's close-in wrist shot.
"We didn't give them much time and space, and our guys were in the shooting lanes," Boucher said. "That's what the penalty kill is about, who is willing to pay the price? Our guys were terrific."
Especially the newcomers. Commodore played 15:32 with four hits and three blocked shots, and was on the ice for the final 28 seconds. Lee played 15:31 with two hits and two blocks.
Garon was out there the entire time.
"We needed very good goaltending," Boucher said. "We certainly got it."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 44 (Purcell, St. Louis), 8:42. 2, Montreal, Desharnais 13, 16:02. Penalties—Commodore, TB (interference), 10:37.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Hall 2 (Malone, Wyman), :28. Penalties—Emelin, Mon (interference), 5:56; Staubitz, Mon, minor-misconduct (interference), 8:16; Malone, TB, minor-major-game misconduct (unsportsmanlike conduct, fighting), 8:16; Connolly, TB (tripping), 15:29; Kaberle, Mon (hooking), 17:27.
Third Period—None. Penalties—Staubitz, Mon, major (fighting), 3:47; Labrie, TB, major (fighting), 3:47; Weber, Mon (high-sticking), 9:37. Shots on Goal—Montreal 9-9-6—24. Tampa Bay 9-7-6—22. Power-play opportunities—Montreal 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 0 of 3. Goalies—Montreal, Price 22-24-9 (22 shots-20 saves). Tampa Bay, Garon 21-16-4 (24-23).