The Lightning needed little more than two minutes to turn a game upside-down Tuesday night in Montreal.
Down a goal with 2:40 to play, Tampa Bay pulled goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy for an extra attacker. Corey Perry scored 31 seconds later, and just when it appeared the game would go to overtime, Ondrej Palat scored with 38 seconds left to give the Lightning a 3-2 victory.
The win was the fourth straight for Tampa Bay (16-5-4), which is on a five-game point streak. It was also the 10th victory over Montreal in the past 11 regular-season contests.
“(Montreal was) a determined group (Tuesday),” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “(They) probably deserved points out of the game. Fortunately for us, we got the two, but they probably deserved some points out of this one.”
The Lightning jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Pat Maroon’s unassisted goal 10:31 into the first period, the fifth straight time Tampa Bay has opened the scoring.
Maroon grabbed the puck when Canadiens defenseman Kyle Clague fanned on a clearing attempt from behind the Montreal net, spun and beat goaltender Jake Allen low on the stick side. Maroon’s six goals in 24 games this season are two more than he scored in 55 games last season.
“Confidence in the NHL comes from playing,” Maroon said. “Getting back out there, getting put in situations that I usually don’t get put in and obviously getting extra minutes helps a lot. I think you build confidence from that even if the puck’s not going in (the net).”
But the momentum the Lightning gained from Maroon’s goal didn’t last long, as Montreal (6-18-3) answered with second-period goals from Nick Suzuki and Jonathan Drouin.
Part of Tampa Bay’s struggles stemmed from 17 minutes in penalties assessed to defenseman Zach Bogosian, who fought Montreal’s Alexander Romanov after Romanov hip-checked Anthony Cirelli. With Bogosian out until just 5:49 remained, the Lightning had to split minutes among five defensemen for almost an entire period.
Still, Tampa Bay didn’t think it was out of the game — even in the last two minutes.
After Perry tied the score at 2 on a redirection of a cross-ice pass from Steven Stamkos — Perry’s sixth goal in eight games — the pace intensified as the teams battled through the final minute of regulation.
With about 42 seconds remaining, Cirelli won a battle along the boards and sent the puck out of the Lightning zone just across the Canadiens blue line, where a speeding Alex Killorn collected it and skated to the left circle.
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As he patiently held the puck, Killorn saw Palat gain inside position on Montreal’s David Savard and Laurent Dauphin. Killorn passed into the low slot, where Palat received the puck on his backhand and beat Allen with a forehand shot for the go-ahead goal, his seventh of the season.
It marked the second time this season Tampa Bay overcame a deficit in the final 2:30 to win.
“We weathered the storm,” Maroon said. “I guess good teams find a way to win, and we found a way to win (Tuesday) night.”
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