Lightning vs. Canadiens Preview
MONTREAL, Quebec (AP) - The Tampa Bay Lightning have lost the Southeast Division lead, but continued scoring from their secondary lines could help them earn their first postseason berth since 2007.View Current Montreal Canadiens Odds
Tampa Bay tries to widen its lead over the Montreal Canadiens for the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference on Thursday night when the teams conclude their season series at the Bell Centre.
The Lightning (39-22-9) opened the month with a five-point division lead over Washington, but a 2-4-2 skid now has them trying to catch the surging Capitals.
According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book Bodog.com have made the Canadiens -120 money line favorites for Thursday's game against the Lightning. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 56% of more than 63 bets for this game have been placed on the Canadiens -120.
Coach Guy Boucher's club, though, trails fourth-place Pittsburgh by just three points and holds a four-point lead on sixth-place Montreal (38-25-7).
Tampa Bay makes its final visit to Quebec this season following Monday's 6-2 victory over Toronto. The Lightning scored at least three goals for the third time in four games after failing to do so in six straight.
They received a nice boost from Mattias Ritola, who doubled his career total with two goals, and center Nate Thompson, who scored his first goal since Jan. 23 and matched a career high with two points.
"The message was you can't have (Steven) Stamkos, (Martin) St. Louis and (Vincent) Lecavalier and wait for them to score goals while you defend well on the other lines," said Boucher, who coached Montreal's AHL team in Hamilton last season. "That's not the way it goes."
However, that trio continues to produce. Stamkos, the NHL leader with 43 goals, and St. Louis each have two goals and six assists during five-game point streaks. Lecavalier has two goals and an assist during the first half of Tampa Bay's four-game trip.
The Canadiens, meanwhile, are trying to get back on track after dropping two of three following a season-best five-game win streak.
Montreal is 0 for 8 on the power play in its last three contests after failing to convert on three opportunities in Tuesday's 4-2 home loss to Washington. Carey Price made 37 saves, but the Canadiens allowed four goals for the second time in three games.
"We could have stole one tonight," forward Michael Cammalleri said. "Carey's the biggest reason and we had some almost-chances and I just think it was probably indicative of our game overall, just not good enough everywhere and one of those areas was capitalizing on offensive chances."
While forward Andrei Kostitsyn has been the Canadiens' most consistent offensive threat lately with four goals and six assists in 10 games, the club could have a major hole to fill if leading scorer Tomas Plekanec isn't available after leaving Tuesday's game with a lower-body injury.
Plekanec leads Montreal with three assists and four points in the season series with the Lightning.
Price is among the league leaders with 33 wins and a 2.32 goals-against average, but he's allowed 10 goals in three games versus Tampa Bay this season and lost two.
The win came in the most recent meeting, 4-2 in Tampa on March 5 as Stamkos went pointless after posting five goals and four assists in the previous five matchups.
Dwayne Roloson, who has lost three of four starts versus the Canadiens this season, is 0-2-2 with a tie in five career starts in Montreal.