TAMPA — As promised, the Lightning looked better in Game 2 against Montreal than they did in Game 1.
It barely mattered or even showed in a 4-1 loss to the Canadiens on Friday in front of an announced sellout crowd of 19,204 at The Forum.
Montreal grabbed the opening two games of the playoff series and has a stranglehold on the best-of-seven series as the scene switches to the Bell Centre for Game 3 on Sunday.
“It's not going our way right now,'' center Valtteri Filppula said. “We have to give them credit, they are playing well defensively, we don't get a whole lot and we are struggling certainly to get into their zone.
Rene Bourque scored twice for Montreal while Carey Price stopped 26 shots to pick up the victory. David Desharnais scored a power play goal for Montreal, Brendan Gallagher also scored and P.K. Subban added a pair of assists.
Teddy Purcell spoiled Price's shutout bid with 1:59 left in the third period. Anders Lindback stopped 21 shots before being lifted late in the third, giving way to Kristers Gudlevskis, who allowed a goal on the three shots he faced.
For the second consecutive game, the Lightning were knocked off their puck possession, speed style of play by a Montreal neutral zone trap that slowed Tampa Bay's attack down to a crawl at times. Though the Lightning finished with 27 shots on goal, other than a few spurts early in the first period, there were few sustained attacks and limited Grade A scoring chances.
“It's tough right now, they are clogging it up,'' right wing Ryan Callahan said. “They are really good in the neutral zone right now and we have to find a way to get pucks behind them, not just get one chance and be done, try to sustain some pressure. We had some success in the second (period) doing that, it's just a matter of doing that for the full sixty (minutes) that we are missing.''
Tampa Bay did cut down on its turnovers to a certain extent, but too often fell right into the Montreal trap and wound up chasing pucks back for most of the night.
“It seems like we are coming back on pucks a lot,'' captain Steven Stamkos said. “They are a good team over there, but we are a good team, too, and when we are successful we are getting speed through the neutral zone, getting pucks in deep. And that happened the first five or ten minutes of the game, shot from everywhere and had them running around a little bit. But we just couldn't sustain that in the game.''
Tampa Bay did come out looking fast to start the game, generating five shots on goal in the opening two minutes of the game. But it was Montreal that had the best scoring chances, forcing Lindback to stop a Desharnais tip-in attempt at 2:05 and then robbing Brian Gionta on a breakaway chance at 4:48.
Montreal's power play, which was 0-for-14 against Tampa Bay in the four games during the regular season, broke the ice early in the second when Desharnais deflected a Subban point shot 2:24 into the period. Bourque would then make it 2-0 when he gained the zone with speed to catch Sami Salo flat-footed before pushing a puck past a Lindback poke-check attempt at 10:35. Cedric Paquette had the best chance to cut the deficit in half late in the second, but Price slid over to his left to get a pad on Paquette's chance with 4:31 left in the period.
From that point on, the Canadiens slid back into their trap before adding to their lead, with Gallagher's goal at 11:46 chasing Lindback as Cooper said they were looking for a spark that never materialized, not because of any poor play from Lindback.
“We needed something because it was dire straits at that point,'' Cooper said. “But there is no goaltending controversy or anything like that.''