MONTREAL — The start was terrible.
That call was worse.
The Canadian national anthem was still echoing through this hockey temple.
And the red light was on behind the Lightning net.
From “O, Canada” to Oh, No in 11 seconds flat.
Thus began a must-win Game 3 against the Canadiens. Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban flipped a pass from his own end. The puck skittered past the Lightning defense and there was that man again — Rene Bourque, who snapped a wrister that beat Anders Lindback short side.
Game 3 was 11 seconds old.
A cannibal roar from 21,000 at the Bell Centre.
Yeah, I'd say the Lightning have only themselves to blame for Sunday's 3-2 loss … and then along came putrid officiating, when Ryan Callahan's go-ahead goal late in the second period was wiped out by referee Francis Charron. Alex Killorn was called for illegal contact on Montreal goalie Carey Price.
Forget 11 seconds.
This wickedness happened 35 minutes, 38 seconds in.
Now the Bolts are down 3-0 in this series, all but gone.
Never mind that Killorn, after going hard over Price and into the net, was trying to get out of the way.
Never mind that Price had a few seconds to get up and re-establish position.
And Price was the one who bumped Killorn on the way back into his goal.
Bolts coach Jon Cooper stood on the Lightning bench and went bonkers.
Can you blame him?
His team didn't deserve this, not after how they fought back after those first 11 seconds.
They showed heart. They showed some fight.
They showed so much after Bourque made the Bell go mad.
The Bolts killed off a four-minute penalty in that first period.
And Lindback was spectacular, with several remarkable saves, unconscious saves on Canadiens in alone. It could have been 4-0 after a period. Lindback, hung out to dry by his defense, refused to dry.
Yes, we probably would have looked back on those saves as series changers if it hadn't been for Francis the talking mule.
You see, the Lightning began to find some breathing room after Lindback's refusal to lose.
In the second period, they finally began to break through that Montreal stranglehold.
They tied it at 1 in the second on the power play, a goal from Ondrej Palat, who was back in the lineup after missing Game 2.
The Bolts were showing life. They had momentum even.
Callahan's goal with 4:22 left in the second should have stood. It should have been 2-1
It was a worse kick in the head than the one that dropped Steven Stamkos a few minutes later.
The Lightning won't.
By the way, if you're trying to figure out where Francis Charron is from, he's from North Tampa.
Extremely North Tampa.
For his sin, Charron's Wikipedia entry was hacked, presumably by some Lightning fan, so it read that Charron was “valuable 6th man for the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup playoffs” and then went all naughty on the guy. Oh, that Internet.
Of course, you know what would happen as soon as Callahan's goal was waved off.
Actually, it happened about two and half minutes later: A Montreal goal and a 2-1 Canadiens lead, Brendan Gallagher off a feed from Subban. Lindback had no chance.
The Canadiens scored early in the third period, too. Matt Carle later got one back. And the Lightning scrambled madly at the end to tie it.
But the cannibal roar eventually returned.
Now this series is just about done.
Yes, the Lightning had their chances.
And they're the ones who lost the first two games in Tampa.
That start was terrible.
But the heart was admirable.
And that call was abominable.