TAMPA — Maybe the bounces really are starting to go the Lightning's way.
Two big ones went in the team's favor Tuesday night against the Canadiens. Both ended up as goals in a second period in which Tampa Bay scored three times on six shots and earned a huge 5-3 victory at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Vinny Prospal scored with 5:03 left in the period to break a 2-2 tie when his shot deflected in off the back of the right skate of goaltender Carey Price.
Two minutes, 11 seconds later, Steve Downie made it 4-2 when the puck he threw into the slot, from behind the Canadiens' net, deflected in off the skate of Montreal's Roman Hamrlik.
They were Tampa Bay's final two shots of the period.
"There have been a lot of games we didn't get the bounces," Prospal said. "But if you start winning a little more, the bounces start going your way."
The Lightning's third straight win and sixth in eight didn't go exactly as coach Rick Tocchet planned. Tampa Bay (17-21-10 and on a 10-5-1 run) was outshot 34-24, including 20-7 in the first.
The 20 shots tied the most the team allowed in a period this season. Thank you very much, then, players should be saying to goaltender Mike Smith, who was outstanding with 31 saves.
"We weren't playing that well and he kept us in the game," Prospal said. "He is the reason we won."
Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis each had two points, with Lecavalier getting his team-best 22nd goal to tie it at 2 early in the second and St. Louis his 18th for a 5-2 third-period edge.
Ryan Malone scored his 14th, and the team tightened up defensively in the second and third to outshoot Montreal 17-14.
Tampa Bay also picked up a point in the playoff race, and with 44 is eight behind the Panthers for the East's final spot.
That the Lightning trailed only 2-1 in the first was a testament to Smith's acrobatics as Montreal swarmed from almost the opening faceoff.
Still, the Lightning grabbed the lead 3:08 into the game on Malone's goal set up by Evgeny Artyukhin's pass from behind the Canadiens' goal line.
After that it was all Montreal, which took a 2-1 lead with goals in 51 seconds by Maxim Lapierre and Alex Kovalev, who got some help from Smith when the goalie passed from behind the goal line right to the Montreal right wing, who scored into an empty net at 8:06.
"I was trying to go high, but I couldn't get it up," Smith said. "You don't want that to happen. But as much as I touch the puck, it's bound to happen here and there. I just told myself, 'I'm not going to let any more in.' "
Smith and the defense stood tall after that, killing three power plays in the period, including a 1:22 five-on-three.
Mark Recchi had a chance to tie the score on a penalty shot with 2:19 left, awarded when a Montreal player gloved the puck in the crease. But Price made a glove save on the backhand try.
"We didn't have a good first period," coach Rick Tocchet said. "The good thing about it is they responded. To me, that's a sign of a team that's coming together."
And getting some bounces.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]
First-1, Tampa Bay, Malone 14 (Artyukhin), 3:08. 2, Montreal, Lapierre 9 (Markov, Komisarek), 7:15. 3, Montreal, Kovalev 13, 8:06. Penalties-Kovalev, Mon (roughing), 3:25; Pacioretty, Mon (roughing), 8:43; Downie, TB, served by Artyukhin, double minor (roughing), 8:43; Craig, TB (tripping), 10:56; Meszaros, TB (delay of game), 11:34; Hamrlik, Mon (hooking), 17:41.
Second-4, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 22 (St. Louis, Murphy), 2:49 (pp). 5, Tampa Bay, Prospal 12 (Krajicek), 14:57. 6, Tampa Bay, Downie 3 (Eminger, Stamkos), 17:08. Penalties-D'Agostini, Mon (interference), 1:36; Kostopoulos, Mon (slashing), 10:13; Meszaros, TB (roughing), 10:13; Plekanec, Mon (holding), 11:44.
Third-7, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 18 (Lecavalier, Meszaros), 11:04 (pp). 8, Montreal, Lapierre 10 (G.Latendresse, Gorges), 11:26. Penalties-S.Kostitsyn, Mon (hooking), 1:33; Malone, TB (holding), 5:54; Hamrlik, Mon (hooking), 10:27; Montreal bench, served by G.Latendresse (too many men), 19:52.
Missed Penalty Shot-Recchi, TB, 17:41 first. Shots-Montreal 20-5-9-34. Tampa Bay 7-6-11-24. Power plays-Montreal 0 of 4; Tampa Bay 2 of 7. Goalies-Montreal, Price 16-6-5 (24 shots-19 saves). Tampa Bay, Smith 14-16-9 (34-31). A-15,912 (19,758). T-2:36. Referees-Mike Hasenfratz, Chris Rooney. Linesmen-Thor Nelson, Jonny Murray.