MONTREAL — Call this one a step in the right direction.
The Lightning spent two days on small area battle drills to address their intensity, and it showed on Tuesday. The team spoke about its need for consistency and defensive responsibility. That came through as well.
Their game was not perfect in the 3-1 win over Montreal, but the Lightning demonstrated that lackluster performances like in Ottawa on Saturday are not the ones they want their reputation attached to.
This wasn’t quite the emphatic exclamation point the dominant win over Toronto was to wipe away the miserable loss to Carolina. But it was a clear difference in how the Lightning played.
“There’s still stuff we can improve on,” Victor Hedman said. “But this was obviously a step in the right direction. I thought we battled hard, I thought we kept them to the outside most of the time, we didn’t give up too many grade-As.”
The Canadiens scored first when Jeff Petry beat Andrei Vasilevskiy from the top of the left circle on a feed from Max Domi for a power-play goal.
After that, the penalty kill stepped up. The Lightning took four more penalties (another area they’d like to work on), but they killed the rest off without even giving up many chances.
That lead stood for four minutes before the Lightning tied it up courtesy of an unlikely source. Braydon Coburn isn’t a goal-scorer but he put one past Carey Price, who he’s been shooting on since Price was 16 and they were playing in the Western Hockey League.
The Lightning possessed the puck so long on that play that they changed lines in the middle. Anthony Cirelli’s line got it started and then Point’s line came in and set up the goal.
The goal, in the final seconds of the first period, gave the Lightning momentum going into the second. Managing momentum was another thing they didn’t feel they did well on Saturday, but executed against Montreal.
Steven Stamkos scored a power-play goal on a one-timer from the left circle a minute into the period and then Tyler Johnson added another 57 seconds later. Three goals in 128 seconds of play — how’s that for managing momentum?
“That’s the skill we have on this team,” Coburn said. “We can strike quick like that and we can take advantage of our opportunities. Those guys were able to do that.”
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 33 saves in the game, including 14 in the third period. He stood strong in net through a few scrambles in the crease. He managed to keep the puck out in an instance where the scramble almost pushed him (and the puck) into the net.
Jon Cooper called this game a marginal bounce-back, but felt his team controlled the pace of the game. The team battled the way the coaches have been preaching.
“And then, a couple things crept into our game that weren’t good,” he said. “We took five penalties and you can’t do that.”
He also pointed to turnovers creeping into the game in the third period and called it a “long way to go in our game.” Cooper then said his players made most of the plays they should have.
This was more the case of a team coming on hard, looking to create something facing a deficit than it was the Lightning falling apart late in the game.
There was good and bad in this win. It was a step, but not a perfect showing.
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @dianacnearhos.