NHL Hockey

Final 1 2 3 OT Tot
Montreal 1 1 2 0 4
Tampa Bay 2 1 1 1 5
4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ET22:00 BRT, December 28, 2021
Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida  Attendance: 19,092

Depleted Lightning lean on goaltending vs. struggling Canadiens

Montreal Canadiens at Tampa Bay Lightning

  1. The Lightning won, 3-2, in Montreal three weeks ago (Dec.7), scoring twice in the final 2:09 of the third period to overcome a 2-1 Canadiens lead. It was Tampa Bay's 10th win in its last 11 regular-season games against Montreal. Including three games in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, the Lightning have won their last nine games against the Canadiens in Tampa.
  2. Tampa Bay has the NHL's best points percentage in December (8-1-0, .889), while Montreal has the league's third worst mark this month (1-5-1, .214), ahead of New Jersey (1-8-1, .150) and Arizona (1-5-0, .167).
  3. Montreal's last game was a 3-2 shootout win against the Flyers on Dec. 16. The Canadiens are the only NHL team that has not won consecutive games this season.
  4. Cole Caufield (eight) and Ben Chiarot (seven) each set a single-game career high for shots on goal in Montreal's last game. The only other time a Canadiens player had seven or more shots on goal in a game this season was when Mike Hoffman put seven shots on target against the Kings on November 7.
  5. Tampa Bay has 10 comeback wins this season, tied with St. Louis and Vegas for the NHL high. The Lightning have come from behind in each of their last five wins, beginning with their comeback win at Montreal earlier this month.
  6. Victor Hedman has tallied 12 points (in nine games) in December, which ties him with Morgan Rielly for the NHL high this month among defensemen. Hedman has scored four goals in December, which makes him the co-leader this month among defenders, sharing that distinction with Erik Karlsson and Cale Makar.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are having to overcome much adversity, and more has been added in the past 24 hours.

Holding the top spot in the Atlantic Division, the Lightning learned that when -- perhaps if -- they host Montreal on Tuesday night as the NHL reopens play, they will do so without one of the game's top goaltenders, his backup and a top defenseman.

With Lightning coach Jon Cooper already in COVID-19 protocol, the club announced Sunday that goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, backup Brian Elliott, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and assistant coach Rob Zettler have been sidelined by the virus.

All reportedly are either asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms.

Forward Anthony Cirelli and defenseman Andrej Sustr were added to the list Monday morning.

During a season that has seen scorers Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point out with lengthy injuries, the Lightning have leaned on their goaltending.

In another stellar season, Vasilevskiy -- 17-4-3 record, 2.14 goals-against average, .928 save percentage -- tops the league with 17 victories, one more than Carolina's Frederik Andersen.

Veteran Elliott (3-2-1, 2.78, .903) has provided reliable quality, recording wins over Minnesota, Philadelphia and Ottawa -- the latter being two of his former clubs during his 15 NHL seasons.

For Tuesday's match against Montreal, assistant coach Derek Lalonde said the Lightning will call up two of their three goalies at the AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch and another defenseman or two.

The Crunch's Amir Miftakhov (3-4-2, 2.65, .907) has appeared in 12 games this season. Hugo Alnefelt and Maxime Lagace have .864 and .861 save percentages, respectively.

The Lightning, who had a Dec. 18 game against Colorado postponed, along with a contest five days later at Arizona -- last played on Dec. 21 in Las Vegas and rallied to win 4-3 in the last match before the holiday break and subsequent pause.

In a preview of future COVID-19 problems, the game was the only one of 10 scheduled that day to be played.

As for Tuesday's game against Montreal, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who scored the game-winner against Vegas, said Monday, "We have to prepare like we're going to play. Obviously, things can change."

The Canadiens are trapped in a three-game road losing streak and lost 3-2 to the Lightning in Montreal on Dec. 7.

Montreal is just 2-5-1 against division competition, and its 2.13 goals per game ranks 31st in the NHL, ahead of only Arizona (1.93).

Practicing on Monday for the first time since Dec. 19, Montreal had games postponed against the New York Islanders, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils during last week's pause.

Before the holiday break, the Canadiens put four players into COVID-19 protocol -- Artturi Lehkonen, Laurent Dauphin, Mike Hoffman and Tyler Toffoli.

They updated the virus list Monday by adding goalie Jake Allen and defensemen Ben Chiarot, Jeff Petry, Joel Edmundson and Chris Wideman, along with goaltending coach Eric Raymond.

The news is not good for Montreal, which is on pace for its worst season in team history.

"We're only focusing and adjusting -- almost to the hour --- to the situation and to the number of cases we have," Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said after Monday's practice.

"We're really looking to make sure we have enough guys coming on the trip."

--Field Level Media

Updated December 27, 2021

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