Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens Pick & Prediction MARCH 2nd 2024

According to Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, his squad was dealt a tough hand in a very rare, late, home loss Thursday, but the Lightning have a chance at redemption when the Montreal Canadiens arrive on the Gulf Coast for Saturday night’s match.

Cooper may have a point.

After the Buffalo Sabres’ Tage Thompson tied it at 2 with a third-period power-play goal, the 6-foot-6 center drew a hooking call in overtime that set up Rasmus Dahlin’s man-advantage marker for a 3-2 victory.

But it was an earlier non-call in overtime against Buffalo for an obvious infraction for too many men on the ice that irked Cooper.

“There’s plays that go for you and against you,” he said after his club fell to 4-6 in the five-minute session. “I thought a lot went against us tonight. I think everybody in the building saw (Buffalo’s penalty) and they don’t call it.”

The setback was uncharacteristic for the Lightning when leading after two periods: They fell to 23-1-3 in that scenario.

“You’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt,” said Cooper, whose Lightning led 2-1 after 40 minutes before Thompson and Dahlin sank them with power-play markers.

“We were dealt a hand and we didn’t do well with it, so we can whine and cry all we want, but that’s not us. Just go play the game. They were able to take advantage of it and we were not.”

Montreal also is stinging from a blown lead in the third period Thursday night, and, like the Lightning, special teams were problematic in a game at the Florida Panthers that needed extra time.

The Habs did receive a power-play tally from Alex Newhook – giving coach Martin St. Louis’ club its first lead, 3-2, at 3:27 of the third – but Florida’s Sam Reinhart, who scored on the power play earlier, knotted the game at 3 with a short-handed goal nearly 10 minutes later.

The surging Panthers got a shootout winner from Anton Lundell in the bottom of the shootout’s third round as the Eastern Conference champions won 4-3 and moved to 26-1-4 when scoring first.

St. Louis said his side may not have won but showed it was right there with perhaps the NHL’s hottest team.

“That Florida team is one of the best teams in the league,” said St. Louis after the Habs opened their four-game road trip through the South with the loss.

“There is a lot to learn with their game, and we’re not as far along as they are, but we’re trying to grab stuff from any team in the league that does things better than us at this stage. But I thought we matched them pretty well tonight.”

In its past 10 outings, Montreal is 2-7-1, but St. Louis said captain Nick Suzuki, who had a goal and two assists, continues to serve as an example for younger players, with Cole Caufield and Juraj Slafkovsky showing leadership as well.

“When you’re trying to build a winning culture, it starts there,” St. Louis said. “The game is not as fun without the puck, defensively, and if you want to win in this league you’ve got to value that.

“They’re buying into it, and I think that, to me, is very contagious, especially when (Suzuki) does it.”

–Field Level Media

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