Leave it to Lightning coach Jon Cooper to figure out a way to show his displeasure by making what seemed like a good joke.
In discussing Tampa Bay's 3-2 loss to the Canadiens on Sunday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series at the Bell Centre, Cooper said, "Let's call a spade a spade. We only scored three goals … I mean two."
The assembled media laughed at the improvisation, but there was a message in it about a game that turned with a controversial goalie interference call that disallowed a Ryan Callahan goal that would have given Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead with 4:22 left in the second period.
Instead, the stage was set for a difficult stretch of 2 minutes, 32 seconds in which Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos had to briefly leave the game after what seemed an inadvertent knee to the head from Alexei Emelin, and Brendan Gallagher scored with 1:50 left to give Montreal a 2-1 lead it never relinquished.
"I was (mad) then, and I'm (mad) now," Cooper said about the call. "We played hard. I thought we were determined. I thought we played with passion. I thought we deserved a better fate."
Instead, Tampa Bay is down three games to none in the series that could end Tuesday.
The odds of a comeback are slim. Only three teams have come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game series. That said, give the Lightning credit for some resiliency.
After Rene Bourque's breakaway goal 11 seconds into the game, Ondrej Palat tied the score with a second-period power-play goal.
After Tomas Plekanec gave Montreal a 3-1 lead 5:43 into the third period, Matt Carle scored with a shot from the blue line with 8:24 left to cut the Lightning's deficit to one.
And goaltender Anders Lindback did more than his share with 28 saves, including 12 in the first period to keep the game from getting out of hand.
"We worked hard, played well," Stamkos said. "Definitely our best game of the series. We probably deserved better, but we can't hang our heads now. We're against the wall."
But the hot topic was the disallowed goal Callahan scored after a scramble in front of the net.
The officials said Alex Killorn, who tripped over Canadiens goalie Carey Price and fell into the net as he went hard to the crease, interfered with Price on his way out.
Rule 69.3 states that even if the goaltender initiates contact with a player in the crease, which Price seemed to do, a goal is disallowed.
The Lightning's beef was that Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban impeded Killorn's attempt to get out of the net and Price had plenty of time — "I don't know how many seconds ticked off," Cooper said — to re-establish his position after Killorn left the crease.
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The play is not reviewable.
"(Subban) was in my way," Killorn said. "Once I got out of the way, Price kind of jumped toward me. I was just trying to get out of the way. I know it was a tough situation for him, because I am a little bit in Carey's way. But I don't know if jumping on me, he needs to do that."
But the way Price saw it, "I tried to come back across the net, and I tripped over their guy. At that point, I didn't know what was going on or where the puck was. You can't be in the middle of the crease."
Cooper said referee Francis Charron told him that after looking at the play between periods, he would make the call again.
"What I do appreciate about the ref, he was defiant and decisive and didn't waiver. He believed in what he saw," Cooper said. "In my opinion, I saw it different."
Besides, he said, "It's still a tie game. You have to turn the page."
There are not many left.
"It's one game again," Callahan said. "I said going into this game we've got to win one. It's the same thing going into Game 4."
First Period—1, Montreal, Bourque 3 (Subban), :11. Penalties—Barberio, TB, double minor (high-sticking), 3:15.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Palat 1 (Stamkos, Hedman), 8:39 (pp). 3, Montreal, Gallagher 2 (Subban, Eller), 18:10. Penalties—Hedman, TB (holding), :45; Briere, Mon (cross-checking), 8:14; Sustr, TB (hooking), 9:04; Subban, Mon (roughing), 12:00; Gudas, TB (roughing), 16:09; Prust, Mon (roughing), 16:09.
Third Period—4, Montreal, Plekanec 2 (Prust, Gallagher), 5:43. 5, Tampa Bay, Carle 1 (Stamkos, Gudas), 11:36. Penalties—Barberio, TB (slashing), 6:05. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 8-12-9—29. Montreal 13-7-11—31. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 2; Montreal 0 of 5. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Lindback 0-3-0 (31 shots-28 saves). Montreal, Price 3-0-0 (29-27). A—21,273 (21,273). T—2:37. Referees—Francis Charron, Paul Devorski. Linesmen—Derek Amell, Darren Gibbs.