TAMPA — Lightning coach Rick Tocchet acknowledged before Wednesday's game that the million-dollar question with his team is, why is it so roller-coaster-ish?
Tampa Bay has often followed up a couple of strong games, and wins, with a flat performance, making it difficult to gain momentum and get over .500.
It happened again in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Canadiens, who controlled play in the first two periods before Tampa Bay finally showed some life in the third.
Tampa Bay (15-15-10) salvaged a point, but considering it had won four of its previous five, failing to turn a two-game winning streak into three for the fourth time this season left players disappointed.
"Playing hard for 20 minutes isn't enough to win the game," said defenseman Kurtis Foster, who scored Tampa Bay's only goal. "It's nice to get a point, but it would have been nice to keep the ball rolling with some wins."
The Lightning would have left empty-handed if not for another impressive performance by goalie Mike Smith, who made 33 saves — many of them difficult — in keeping his team in the game. "Without Smitty," Marty St. Louis said, "we're not even close in this game."
That's because Tampa Bay came out flat in the first two periods, an effort Tocchet called "disheartening," especially considering coaches had stressed the past two days not getting complacent after Monday's victory over the Bruins. Tocchet delivered another message after the second period, his team trailing by one.
"It was a little of a gut check," Tocchet said. "I said after the second, 'Don't allow (yourselves) to lose this game, because … it's only 1-0.' You're going to be flat sometimes in the games, and good teams learn how to win those games."
Down because of a second-period goal by Brian Gionta, Tampa Bay responded with a third-period flurry, outshooting the Canadiens 13-4, with Montreal goalie Carey Price making strong saves of his own.
Foster tied it with a slap shot from the right point nearly four minutes in, but Montreal held on before winning it 3:32 into overtime. That's when Tomas Plekanec scored on a two-on-one started by a bad break for the Lightning.
Steven Stamkos fell down in the offensive zone with the puck. That pleased the heavily Canadiens-partisan crowd of 18,441 at the St. Pete Times Forum, which included a lot of red shirts and chants "Let's Go Habs!"
"I thought we took too long to get our fans in the game," Foster said. "And by the time we did, it was almost too late."
First Period—None. Penalties—Downie, TB (hooking), 17:36; Metropolit, Mon (goaltender interference), 19:10.
Second Period—1, Montreal, Gionta 9 (Markov, Gomez), 9:53. Penalties—Foster, TB (high-sticking), 15:18; Gomez, Mon (roughing), 17:00; Smith, TB, served by Szczechura (roughing), 17:00; Hamrlik, Mon (slashing), 17:31.
Third Period—2, Tampa Bay, Foster 6 (Hedman, St. Louis), 3:52. Penalties—Ohlund, TB (tripping), 6:30.
Overtime—3, Montreal, Plekanec 9 (Cammalleri), 3:32. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Montreal 14-14-4-3—35. Tampa Bay 8-11-13-3—35. Power-play opportunities—Montreal 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 0 of 2. Goalies—Montreal, Price 10-13-3 (35 shots-34 saves). Tampa Bay, Smith 8-10-6 (35-33). A—18,441 (19,758).