TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - The Montreal Canadiens are gaining confidence with every playoff victory.
“We are playing as a unit right now. Everyone is supporting each other and buying in to what the coaching staff is teaching us,” goaltender Carey Price said Friday night after a 4-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning gave the Canadiens a 2-0 lead in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. “We are living in the moment.”
Rene Bourque scored twice, and David Desharnais and Brendan Gallagher had the other goals for Montreal. Price stopped 26 shots, redeeming himself following a less than stellar performance during a 5-4 overtime win in Game 1.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is Sunday in Montreal.
“It was a complete team effort,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. “I like the way we were managing the puck. I liked our checking game. We were ready for their adjustments and we stuck to the game plan.”
“Yes, we were happy to win Game 1. But emotionally, we were not too high,” Therrien added. “I like our composure, and I like our leadership. We have accomplished a lot of good things this season.”
Bourque and Desharnais scored in the second period after defensive breakdowns left Tampa Bay goaltender Anders Lindback in tough situations. Gallagher made it 3-0 with an unassisted goal in the third period.
Bourque added his second goal at 14:39 of the third, rebounding his own shot before skating around the back of the net to beat backup goalie Kristers Gudlevskis.
“There’s no use in feeling sorry for ourselves right now. We have to dig deep here,” Lightning star Steven Stamkos said.
“We’ve been through a lot of adversity, and this is just piling up right now,” Stamkos added. “We found a way every time, and I expect the same.”
Price lost his bid for a shutout when Teddy Purcell scored for Tampa Bay with less than two minutes remaining.
“He was awesome tonight. He turned away some big scoring chances, and that’s what we have come to expect from him,” Gallagher said.
The Canadiens went 0 for 23 on the power play over their last eight games of the regular season and were 0 for 17 in five meetings with the Lightning before finally breaking through when Desharnais slipped the puck past Lindback for his first career playoff goal and a 1-0 lead.
P.K. Subban assisted on the goal, and then got another assist when Bourque took a pass from Thomas Vanek, split two defenders and skated in alone on Lindback to make it 2-0 at 10:35 of the second.
Lindback, filling in for the injured Ben Bishop, was lifted after Gallagher scored from the right circle at 11:46 of the third. Less than three minutes later, Montreal eliminated any prospect for a Lightning comeback when Bourque got his fifth career playoff goal in 12 games.
“Since he has gotten back in the lineup, he’s been hungry, physical and he’s scored some big goals,” Therrien said of Bourque. “It’s been a tough season, but he’s playing very good hockey right now.”
The Canadiens outshot the Lightning 44-25 in Game 1 and recovered after Price failed to protect a pair of third-period leads, taking the opener on Dale Weise’s first career playoff goal.
Tampa Bay felt it played tentative in Game 1 and tried to put more pressure on Price from the start Friday. The Lightning got off three shots in the first minute and finished the opening period with 11 - five fewer than they attempted against Price during regulation in the previous game.
Lindback, meanwhile, made two nice saves - rejecting Canadiens captain Brian Gionta on a breakaway with his right leg five minutes into the game and using his glove to deny Max Pacioretty late in the period. The 6-foot-6 goaltender stopped 20 of 23 shots before being pulled.
“We knew they were going to come out hard, so being able to weather the storm over that first 10 minutes was huge,” Price said.
Montreal won Game 1 despite an off night by its goaltender, who vowed the Canadiens would play better defensively after allowing four goals Wednesday night.
Tampa Bay failed to even get a shot off during a power-play opportunity in the second, and Price made a couple of pad saves and got some help from the post during a sequence that afforded the Lightning a chance to get back in the game.
“We knew he’s a great goalie. … I don’t think we got enough shots on net,” said Stamkos, who had a team-leading four shots after scoring two goals in the opener. “We have to get a lot of scoring chances, a lot of shots, if we want to beat this guy.”
NOTES: Lightning rookie LW Ondrej Palat did not play after leaving Game 1 with an upper-body injury. Bishop’s status for the remainder of the series with a left elbow injury is uncertain, although Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper has said the goaltender is not expected to be ready to return any time soon. … The Canadiens failed to take advantage of a four-minute high-sticking penalty on Stamkos in the first period. They spent half that time skating 4-on-4 after drawing a penalty less than a minute into the power play for having too many men on the ice.
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