Canadiens vs. Lightning Preview
Montreal looks to avoid another loss on its trip Thursday night when it meets a Tampa Bay team that has suffered an Eastern Conference-low three regulation home defeats.
The Canadiens (20-15-2) began a stretch of nine of 11 games on the road with a 4-2 loss to Detroit on Dec. 10 that snapped a three-game winning streak. They followed that defeat with a 3-1 loss in Toronto the next night.
According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGlobal.com have made the Lightning -135 money line favorites for Thursday's game against the Canadiens. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 76% of more than 63 bets for this game have been placed on the Lightning -135.
After splitting a pair of home games, Montreal began this trip with a 3-2 loss to Colorado on Dec. 19. The Canadiens have dropped four of the first five on the trek, falling 3-0 to Washington on Tuesday.
They had nine shots in the first period and six in the third while falling out of first place in the Northeast Division for the first time since Oct. 22.
"It's discouraging," defenseman Hal Gill said. "There are some areas we need to be better, but sometimes it's just making the little bounces go your way.
"We have to pick up that little edge."
One area coach Jacques Martin would like to see his team improve is taking penalties. Montreal has allowed each of its last two opponents to have eight power-play chances, and although the Capitals went 0 for 8, Martin said killing all those penalties hurt his team.
"It just drains (us)," he said. "We didn't give any goals on the power plays, (but) in the end, we had some people that were tired."
Tampa Bay (21-11-5) has had 11 power-play chances in its last two games, converting twice. The Lightning failed to earn at least one point for the first time in nine games Tuesday night with a 4-3 home loss to Boston as Mark Recchi scored on the power play with 19.7 seconds left to lift the Bruins above Montreal in the standings.
The goal came while Lightning star Steven Stamkos was serving a penalty for a hit into the boards on forward Gregory Campbell.
"Shoulder to shoulder hit," said Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher, who felt it was a clean play. "He's fighting for the puck. They're both going after it. This one is very difficult for everyone to swallow."
The Lightning were 6-0-1 in their previous seven at the St. Pete Times Forum and 6-0-2 in their last eight overall. They are 10-3-2 at home.
Stamkos scored for the third straight game and has five points over that span. He is second in the league with 29 goals and 52 points.
The third-year center had a goal and an assist in a 4-3 overtime win at Montreal on Oct. 13. Tampa Bay has earned at least one point in nine of the last 10 meetings, going 6-1-3.
Montreal should have defenseman James Wisniewski available after acquiring him from the New York Islanders for a pair of draft picks Tuesday. He was New York's top-scoring defenseman with 21 points (three goals, 18 assists).