Stamkos continues pursuit of 60 against Canadiens

Pretty much assured his second career Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy, Lightning center Steven Stamkos is also building a case for his first league MVP honor.

Reaching 60 goals would certainly strengthen that argument and Stamkos continues his run towards that mark this evening when Tampa Bay visits the Montreal Canadiens.

Stamkos tied for the league in goals in 2009-10 with 51 and followed that up with a 45-goal campaign last season. The 22-year-old has already netted 58 goals this season and only Alex Ovechkin of Washington has had more in a single season since the lockout with 65 in 2007-08.

Stamkos scored twice in Monday's 4-2 victory over Washington, netting the game-winner with 63 seconds to play before adding an empty-net tally to extend his lead over Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin most the most in the NHL to 10 goals. His efforts helped the Lightning close out their 2010-11 home schedule with a franchise high-tying 25 wins at home this season as Tampa ends with season with a three-game swing through Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg.

"We want to finish this season strong and build on what we're doing here," said Stamkos, who has eight goals and 11 points over his past six games. "We wanted to win this one for the fans because they've been there for us all year long."

Teddy Purcell and Victor Hedman scored goals 25 seconds apart on Monday and Dwayne Roloson made 31 saves for the Lightning, who have won two straight and five of their past seven games.

Stamkos, who has matched a career high with 95 points this season, has scored twice in three games versus the Canadiens this campaign and has tallied seven goals in 15 career meetings with the club.

The Lightning have won both of their home games versus the Canadiens this season, but have lost two straight and four of their past six in Montreal. That includes a 3-1 setback there back in January.

Tampa won't be facing Montreal starter Carey Price, who won't play tonight due to headaches. Peter Budaj will get the start in net instead after making 31 saves in Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Capitals.

Montreal fell behind by two goals early before getting tallies from Tomas Plekanec and Erik Cole. Still, the Habs lost their fourth straight game and for the seventh time in eight games.

"The guys worked hard tonight and I thought they deserved a better fate," said Montreal head coach Randy Cunneyworth. "We crawled out of a hole and worked hard so there's nothing to be upset about with this game, we just came up a little short."

Cole, who leads the Canadiens with 32 goals and is third with 57 points, is scheduled to play in his 700th career game this evening.