MONTREAL — It truly is bewildering what comes over the Lightning on the road.
So tough to play against at home, where this season it tied the franchise mark of 25 victories, the team puts up relatively little resistance as a visitor.
"It seems like we're a different team on the road," acknowledged captain Vinny Lecavalier.
And it might never have been worse than Wednesday night's 5-2 loss to the lowly Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Tampa Bay players seemed to expend about as much effort as it took to lace up their skates.
"We didn't compete," coach Guy Boucher said. "We got a bad result, and we deserved it."
With only 10 shots in the final two periods and considering it was outshot 25-16 in the game, the result actually was better than the Lightning deserved.
To top it off, Steven Stamkos was held without a goal for only the second time in seven games to remain stuck at 58.
Granted, this is a tough time of year. The Lightning (37-36-7) is out of the playoffs, and with just two games left, also on the road against other nonplayoff teams, motivation could be difficult to find.
But that doesn't excuse a 12-22-5 road record and 29 road points that are fewest in the Eastern Conference.
"We definitely are more physical at home," Lecavalier said. "Physicality brings everything after it. It brings that momentum we didn't have at all (Wednesday night)."
"We're probably a bit too loose (defensively)," defenseman Eric Brewer said. "You've got to stick with moving the puck forward and spending less time in the defensive zone."
One thing for sure, Boucher said, the game plan doesn't change home and away.
"At some point," he said, "the players have to be better."
The Lightning never led a Canadiens team that is last in the East, entered in a 1-3-4 slump and because of a concussion was without No. 1 goaltender Carey Price.
Lecavalier scored after goalie Peter Budaj had a brain cramp and passed the puck to the captain in front of an open net. And Bruno Gervais' goal 3:42 into the third period cut Tampa Bay's deficit to 3-2.
But when Brewer "blew a tire" in the defensive slot, Max Pacioretty pounced on the puck and scored for a 4-2 lead at 5:58.
And defenseman Victor Hedman (missing a hip check on Pacioretty) and goaltender Sebastien Caron (missing Pacioretty's unscreened shot) could not have looked worse as Montreal took a 5-2 lead.
"We have to find a way to play better," Boucher said. "It was a poor effort and poor execution."
First Period—1, Montreal, Emelin 3 (Desharnais, Budaj), 2:11. 2, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 22, 7:26. Penalties—Thompson, TB (roughing), 13:31; Staubitz, Mon (roughing), 13:31.
Second Period—3, Montreal, Cole 33 (Desharnais, Pacioretty), 1:42. 4, Montreal, Cole 34 (Plekanec, Markov), 14:34 (pp). Penalties—Emelin, Mon (delay of game), 2:21; Lecavalier, TB (hooking), 8:15; Leblanc, Mon (hooking), 10:21; Wallace, TB (cross-checking), 13:47; Connolly, TB (tripping), 17:37.
Third Period—5, Tampa Bay, Gervais 6 (Wallace, Hedman), 3:42. 6, Montreal, Pacioretty 31 (Gorges, Plekanec), 5:58. 7, Montreal, Pacioretty 32 (Subban), 14:57. Penalties—Lecavalier, TB (hooking), 12:33; Leblanc, Mon (hooking), 16:01. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 6-5-5—16. Montreal 13-6-6—25. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 3; Montreal 1 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Caron 1-1-0 (25 shots-20 saves). Montreal, Budaj 4-7-4 (16-14).