TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Carey Price concedes that failing to protect a pair of third-period leads is not a formula for success in the NHL playoffs.
The Montreal Canadiens won the opening game of their series against Tampa Bay without a stellar performance from one of the league’s top goaltenders, and they know they will have to be much better defensively the rest of the way against the young Lightning.
Price shared the NHL’s third-best save percentage during the regular season, and then allowed four goals in Tampa Bay’s first 14 shots in Game 1. The Canadiens still managed to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series, with Dale Weise scoring his first career playoff goal for a 5-4 overtime win on Wednesday.
Game 2 is Friday night.
"It’s always a positive to win a game when you give up four goals," Price said after practice Thursday. "Moving forward, obviously we would like to reduce that."
Price finished with 21 saves, nine of them in the extra period. The Canadiens, who are not known for their scoring prowess, outshot Tampa Bay 44-25, a trend that cannot continue for the Lightning to have any success.
"We didn’t get the win, so it’s tough to find positives," said Steven Stamkos, who scored two goals to give Tampa Bay a chance while playing without injured goaltender Ben Bishop.
"Five goals against, way too many in the playoffs," Stamkos, the Lightning captain, said. "Hopefully, everybody has a taste of playoff hockey. They know what it’s all about. We definitely have to do better to stay in this thing."
Despite Price not being on top of his game, Montreal felt it played well overall. The Canadiens got goals from all four of their lines, and Weise made the most of a wide-open look in front of the net.
"I won’t miss too many from there," said Weise, who scored six goals in 61 games with Vancouver and the Canadiens this season. The 25-year-old forward has 13 goals in 179 career regular-season games.
Anders Lindback stopped 39 shots for Tampa Bay. With Bishop out indefinitely after injuring his left elbow against Toronto on April 8, the Lightning will have to ride their backup goalie as far as he can take them.
Coach Jon Cooper felt the Lightning left Lindback in some bad situations in Game 1, including leaving Weise alone for the winning goal.
"Do we have better in us? Most certainly we do," said Cooper, who is finishing his first full season behind Tampa Bay’s bench. "I know we can play much better than that."
The Lightning came away from the opener feeling that much of the damage against them was self-inflicted. Nearly half the roster lacked playoff experience before Wednesday, but Cooper and his players did not accept that as an excuse for not being able to hold a pair of early leads against Price.
Tampa Bay lost rookie Ondrej Palat, one of its top scorers, to an upper-body injury in the third period. Still, Cooper felt the team weathered adversity and played its best in overtime.
Alex Killorn was instrumental in extending the game, scoring in the third period and then assisting on Stamkos’ goal that forced OT.
"I think at the beginning, we might have been a little too excited. As the game wore on, I thought we handled it pretty well," Killorn said.
"Everybody likes to say we are young and don’t have a lot of playoff experience," said the 24-year-old forward, who made his playoff debut. "But we all know how to play hockey."
Price is confident the Canadiens will build on what they did well in the opener, too.
"I thought our puck pressure was really good. We were skating very well and playing in-your-face type of hockey," Price said. "I think if we want to have continued success, we’re going to have to bring the same type of mentality and effort."