Something Has to Give
Montreal hopes to win at home for only the second time in nine games on Thursday night when it faces the last-place Lightning, losers of five straight.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Montreal -157 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 6 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 81% of bets for this game have been placed on Tampa Bay +147 (View NHL Bet Percentages).
This will be the first home game for the Canadiens (19-13-7) since suffering a 3-2 loss to Florida on Dec. 18. Montreal is 1-5-2 in its last eight games at the Bell Centre, and its six home wins are tied with San Jose and Phoenix for the fewest in the NHL.
"On the road, we seem to play more relaxed and kind of play the game with nothing to lose," right wing Alex Kovalev said following a 5-2 win at Tampa Bay on Dec. 27. "When we come back home, we try to overdo things. We try to do a little bit extra because family is in the building, and friends and all of our fans."
The Canadiens' poor play at home is surprising considering they were 50-25-7 on home ice the previous two seasons.
Part of their problem can be traced to a power play that is 2-for-27 over the last seven home games. The penalty killers, meanwhile, have allowed seven goals in 28 short-handed situations in that span.
Although it ended with a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Monday, the Canadiens gained eight of a possible 12 points (3-1-2) on their six-game road trip that was interrupted by the Christmas break.
"We got eight points out of 12, so we're happy with that," goaltender Cristobal Huet said. "Of course, you want all 12, but we're satisfied with how it turned out overall."
Andrei Kostitsyn scored two power-play goals for the Canadiens, who limited the Rangers to 21 shots, two more than their season low.
"We are disappointed that we lost a point," coach Guy Carbonneau said. "We were there right to the end. We had chances to put it away when it was 3-2, and we couldn't do it. It was a lot of young guys against an experienced team. I thought we played probably one of our best games this year."
Kostitsyn, the 10th overall pick in the 2003 draft, has three goals and four assists during a six-game point streak. He already has 21 points in 35 games in 2007-08 after posting 14 in his first 34 contests over parts of two seasons.
Huet stopped 28 of 30 shots at Tampa Bay on Dec. 27, improving to 5-2-0 with a 2.01 goals-against average in seven career starts against the Lightning.
Tampa Bay opened a four-game trip Tuesday with its eighth loss in nine games, 4-3 in a shootout to Toronto.
The Lightning (15-21-4) were headed for their fifth straight regulation defeat before Paul Ranger scored with 40.3 seconds left in the third period to force overtime.
Andreas Karlsson and Martin St. Louis also had goals for Tampa Bay, which is a league-worst 3-13-2 on the road.
"Our top players have to play better, they have to step up," coach John Tortorella said. "Our third and fourth lines played well, but our top two lines were outplayed by their top players."
Vincent Lecavalier leads the NHL with 58 points, but only 19 of those have come on the road.
The Canadiens are 1-0-1 this season against the Lightning, losing 3-2 in a shootout at home on Dec. 11.
by: Staff Writers - Email Us
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