(SportsNetwork.com) - The Montreal Canadiens lost a tough one in the opener of the Eastern Conference semifinals and hope to recover when they host Sunday's Game 2 battle against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Lightning jumped out to an early lead in this best-of-seven set on Friday, taking a 2-1 double-overtime victory in Game 1 at the Bell Centre. Nikita Kucherov delivered the winner in a contest which featured some controversial decisions by the officials.
One of those disputed plays came moments before Kucherov snapped the game- winning shot from the slot just 2:06 into the second overtime period. Replays showed Tampa's Valtteri Filppula was offside by a few inches before Brian Boyle carried the puck into the zone. However, the officials didn't see it and shortly after the missed call, Kucherov received a backhand pass from Filppula in the slot and made a quick move on Montreal's Tom Gilbert before beating Carey Price to his glove side.
"It's really frustrating losing a game on an offside. Those things are not supposed to happen," said Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper also may have had cause to complain if his team lost Game 1. Only a few minutes into the first overtime, Kucherov appeared to score on a breakaway against Price, but officials ruled the Lightning player pushed Montreal's goaltender into the net on the play. After consulting with replay officials in Toronto, it was ruled that the call on the ice stood as the play was not reviewable.
"It was just another play in the hockey game," Cooper said. "We were still in the hockey game, and that's the way the guys saw it."
Tyler Johnson had the other goal for Tampa, giving the speedy forward an NHL- best seven goals in this postseason. Kucherov has recorded four points (1G, 3A) over his last three games.
Ben Bishop made 43 saves for the Lightning, who defeated the Red Wings in seven games in the opening round. Bishop made 31 saves for a shutout in a 2-0 win over Detroit in Game 7 on Wednesday.
"Clearly, (Bishop) was on tonight," said Cooper.
Bishop had an excellent night overall, but he'd probably like to have another crack at the lone goal scored by Montreal. The Canadiens tied the game with 5:13 left in regulation on a heavy wrister by Max Pacioretty. Tampa's goaltender had a clear look at the shot, however, and the puck caught the top of his glove before falling behind him and trickling into the net.
It was the first goal allowed by Bishop since early in the third period of Game 6 against Detroit, halting a shutout streak of 133 minutes, 8 seconds.
Price, a Hart and Vezina Trophy finalist this season, stopped 33 shots in Friday's loss.
"I thought we played a pretty solid game tonight and deserved a better fate," said Price.
Montreal is hoping to tie the series tonight before it shifts to Tampa for Games 3 and 4. The clubs will get two days of rest after Game 2 before meeting again at Amalie Arena on Wednesday.
This is the third playoff meeting between these clubs. The Lightning swept the Canadiens in the 2004 conference semifinals, while the Canadiens returned the favor in the opening round last spring
Tampa dominated the regular season series with Montreal, winning all five games and outscoring the Habs, 21-8.