Lightning seek big victory against rival Canadiens

( - Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper thought his club failed to match the intensity of its last opponent, resulting in a second straight loss.

The Lightning can't afford similar issues on Monday evening when they take on the Atlantic Division-leading Montreal Canadiens.

Tampa Bay fell two points behind Montreal for first place in the standings on Saturday, when the Lightning lost a 2-1 decision to the Winnipeg Jets and the Canadiens topped the New York Islanders 3-1. The Bolts also have played one more game than the Habs.

Taking on a Jets club fighting for a playoff spot, the Lightning grabbed the lead in third period on a goal by Nikita Kucherov, but the forward took a boarding major less than four minutes later and the Jets eventually followed with two goals.

Winnipeg cashed in on the power play to tie the game, then scored during a 4- on-4 situation to go in front with 7:16 to play.

The Lightning had their four-game home winning streak snapped despite getting 27 saves from Andrei Vasilevskiy. The setback came in the start of a six-game residency and dropped Tampa Bay to 26-7-1 at home on the season.

"We were playing a really desperate hockey team. They played a playoff-style game. They really, really wanted to win that hockey game tonight and they did," said Cooper. I'm not saying we didn't want to win the game, but we didn't match anything they brought to the table."

The Lightning haven't had any trouble matching the Canadiens so far this season, outscoring them 12-4 in winning the first three meetings. Tampa Bay has taken five in a row over Montreal.

The Bolts posted a 7-1 victory on Oct. 13 in the Canadiens' first trip to Tampa this season and also picked up a tight 1-0 overtime victory in Montreal last Tuesday. Tyler Johnson had the winner 63 seconds into overtime and Ben Bishop notched a 19-save shutout.

Bishop has been in net for all three meetings this season and is likely to start again tonight. He is an excellent 8-1-2 versus Montreal lifetime with a 1.37 goals against average and .945 save percentage, allowing just three goals on 58 shots this season.

Carey Price made 35 saves in the loss to Tampa Bay and is 0-2-1 in the three meetings this season, posting a 3.40 GAA and .905 save percentage.

Price hasn't had much of an issue versus the rest of the NHL as he leads the league with a career-high 38 wins, a 1.91 GAA and .936 save percentage.

The Hart and Vezina Trophy candidate bounced back from a previous rough outing to stop 35 shots in the win over the Islanders. He lost a shutout bid with 2:18 to play.

"It's always good to get two road points, it's a confidence builder," said Price.

Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty and Lars Eller lit the lamp for the Canadiens, who had lost five of their last six coming. The victory kept them tied with the New York Rangers for the most points in the Eastern Conference with 93, but the Rangers moved ahead by two points with a victory on Sunday and have a game in hand.

Montreal concludes a three-game road trip on Tuesday versus the Florida Panthers.