MONTREAL — The Lightning's regular-season finale Saturday meant absolutely nothing in the standings, a first-round playoff rematch with the Red Wings set earlier in the day, to begin Wednesday at Amalie Arena.
All Tampa Bay wanted was to get through this game against the Canadiens without another injury.
Instead, it suffered a potentially big one.
Center Tyler Johnson left the 5-2 loss with four minutes left in the first period with an upper-body injury, and it didn't look good.
Johnson hit his head awkwardly into the boards after receiving a postwhistle shove from Montreal defenseman Greg Pateryn. Johnson stayed face-first on the ice for a minute, then skated, with help, to the dressing room and didn't return.
Coach Jon Cooper said there was "lots of concern" about Johnson. "If we were in a playoff game, he wouldn't (have) come back (in)," Cooper said. "That's where it's at."
Ondrej Palat called the play dirty. Brian Boyle called it a "cheap shot." Cooper was furious.
"The wonderful thing about this game, why we all love this game, is honor and respect, and (Pateryn) put a blatant disregard for both," Cooper said. "It was egregious what happened. There's no place for it. I'm at a loss for words for what happened.
"So hopefully (Johnson is) going to be okay. I'm not sure how this is going to end up with 'Johnny,' how hurt he is. But those are season-ending (hits), those could be career-ending (hits) the way that went down. That wasn't good."
In last season's playoffs, Johnson torched the Red Wings for six goals in a first-round series, which Tampa Bay won in seven games.
The Lightning (46-31-5) can ill afford to lose another key player. It played Saturday without top defenseman Victor Hedman (upper body), wing Ryan Callahan (lower body) and second-leading scorer Nikita Kucherov (lower body). Then there's leading scorer and captain Steven Stamkos (blood clot) and defenseman Anton Stralman (fractured left leg).
Though Hedman and Kucherov are expected to be ready for the playoffs' start, there's no guarantee Callahan will be, and Stamkos and Stralman won't be ready until later rounds, Stamkos possibly not at all.
On Johnson's injury, he had slowed heading behind the Canadiens net as goalie Mike Condon snatched the puck, sparking a whistle. Pateryn gave Johnson a push from the side, and Johnson lost his edge and fell awkwardly into the boards.
Head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan went to Johnson's aid, then a few teammates helped Johnson skate off. Pateryn received a five-minute boarding penalty and a game misconduct.
"Definitely scary," the Lightning's Jonathan Drouin said.
The rest of the game didn't get much better for Tampa Bay. Montreal scored four times in the first two periods against backup goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Drouin got his second goal in as many games — in his hometown, to boot — and Palat had the other goal for Tampa Bay, which lost five of its final eight games.
Maybe more important, it keeps losing players.
First—1, Mon, Galchenyuk 29 (Gallagher), 5:11. 2, Mon, Plekanec 14 (Eller, Emelin), 16:27. Penalties—Killorn, TB (hooking), 12:28; Palat, TB (roughing), 15:53; Pateryn, Mon, served by Gallagher, major-game misconduct (boarding), 15:53; Killorn, TB (hooking), 19:00.
Second—3, Mon, Pacioretty 29 (Galchenyuk, Markov), :27. 4, Mon, Galchenyuk 30 (Pacioretty, Markov), 3:44 (pp). Penalties—Filppula, TB (tripping), 2:39; Namestnikov, TB, major (fighting), 9:29; Byron, Mon, major (fighting), 9:29; Galchenyuk, Mon (hooking), 11:58; Filppula, TB (tripping), 12:20; Carr, Mon (high-sticking), 15:43; Killorn, TB (roughing), 16:51.
Third—5, TB, Palat 16 (Filppula), 6:33. 6, TB, Drouin 4 (Carle, Palat), 13:00. 7, Mon, Pacioretty 30 (Gallagher), 19:54 (en). Penalties—Blunden, TB (goaltender interference), 8:53. SOG—TB 9-4-9—22. Mon 11-10-8—29. PPs—TB 0 of 3; Mon 1 of 6. Goalies—TB, Vasilevskiy 11-10-0 (28 shots-24 saves). Mon, Condon 21-25-6 (22-20).