Currently on a two-game losing skid and fresh off a bad loss against one of the NHL’s worst clubs, the Montreal Canadiens will look to change their fortunes against one of the Eastern Conference’s elite.
In their first matchup this season, Montreal will square off against the sizzling Tampa Bay Lightning in Quebec on Saturday night, with the visitors on a hot stretch of play.
The same can’t be said for the Habs.
After losing 3-2 in Ottawa to the Senators on Wednesday, matters got worse Thursday when Montreal fell behind 2-0 against the Anaheim Ducks — slotted 31st in the league-wide standings. The Habs tied it behind Cole Caufield but saw John Klingberg’s game-winning goal and two empty-netters sink them in a 5-2 setback.
Caufield netted twice in the third period — once on the power play, the other at even strength — to push his total to a team-best 18 goals. He became the third Montreal player since the 1990-91 campaign to score at least that many times in 30 matches, joining Tyler Toffoli (2020-21) and Brian Savage (1995-96).
Now set to play their third game in four nights, the Habs will have to be ready for the Lightning, Caufield said. The loss to the Ducks, who earned only their second regulation win, clearly stung the Montreal dressing room.
“It’s our job, you’ve got to come to work ready to go no matter what,” said Caufield, whose first tally snapped his team’s 0-for-23 spell on the power play. “Even if it was a back-to-back, traveling last night, we had the things to take care of ourselves. So there’s no reason for us to come out flat like we did tonight.”
Looking back at the last month of play, it appears Tampa Bay might not be the cure to what’s ailing a team playing for the third time since Wednesday.
Since a 6-3 home win over the Washington Capitals on Nov. 13, coach Jon Cooper’s club has been victorious in 12 of 15 games (12-3-0), climbing into third place in the Atlantic Division and positioned seven points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings and the Florida Panthers.
In Thursday’s 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Lightning demonstrated they can win convincingly when not at the top of their game.
They led Columbus — holder of last place in the Metropolitan Division — by a 1-0 margin before the visitors tied it. The Blue Jackets then controlled play throughout the second, but Tampa Bay’s three-goal third period — its fourth straight game scoring three in a frame — led to its ninth win in the past 11 games on home ice.
“Well, you’ve got to win your games at home — at least most of them,” said Cooper, whose group went 5-1-0 on its season-long homestand. “Going in to third periods, we’ve had leads or we’ve been tied. We’ve pushed in that period like we did tonight.”
The four-game road trip will include stops against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Wings and Buffalo Sabres.
While Steven Stamkos’ 14-game point streak ended, Brayden Point stayed hot. The center scored in his fifth straight game, tying his career-high mark he set five years ago.
Point has 10 goals and three assists in his past 10 contests. He became the fifth Lightning player to reach 40 career game-winning goals with Thursday’s tally.
–Field Level Media