Any lingering bitterness from being swept out of the playoffs by Montreal last year likely dissipated for the Tampa Bay Lightning while winning all five regular-season meetings and certainly vanished with a double-overtime victory in Game 1.
Now the Canadiens need to make sure some justifiable anger doesn’t hang around.
After playing more than 80 minutes only to lose on a controversial goal, Montreal will try to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole Sunday night before the series shifts to Tampa.
Steven Stamkos said the Lightning were too young and inexperienced when they lost to Montreal in the first round last postseason, but Tampa Bay took a seat at the grown-up table against the Canadiens in 2014-15.
The Lightning outscored Montreal 21-8 during the regular season before both found goals hard to come by in Friday’s Game 1.
Ben Bishop and Carey Price stopped a combined 76 shots, and that number likely would have risen had the officials correctly called Tampa Bay for being offsides shortly before Nikita Kucherov got one past Price 2:06 into the second overtime for a 2-1 win.
"It’s really frustrating, losing a game on an offside," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "Those things are not supposed to happen. I thought our players had a great effort tonight. I couldn’t ask for more.
"But to lose a game on an offside, it’s not like a penalty. It’s not a judgment call. It’s black or white. It was clearly offside and we ended up losing the game."
Tampa Bay wasn’t apologizing for the goal, particularly after having Ryan Callahan’s taken away in Game 3 of last year’s series after Alex Killorn interfered with Price.
"Let’s go tale of two games," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "We didn’t come back from (the Callahan disallowed goal) until late in the game. That clearly had an effect on our team."
Price has posted a .947 save percentage over his last 330 minutes dating to Game 3 of the Ottawa series, but there’s not a whole lot happening for the Canadiens at the other end of the ice. They’ve totaled four goals in their last 13-plus periods, and their 4.9 shooting percentage is the worst of any team that’s played at least seven playoff games since the 2003-04 Senators (4.6).
Montreal is also just 1 for 23 (4.3 percent) on the power play in the postseason.
"We threw everything at (Bishop), hit posts, two or three posts there," said Max Pacioretty, who tied the score in the third period. "That’s the way it goes sometimes. We played a great game. Our start was exactly what we wanted, got the fans into it. It didn’t go our way in the first. We have to keep working hard and keep getting better."
Tampa Bay hasn’t been much better with the man advantage, going 0 for 4 Friday to drop to 2 for 34 (5.9 percent).
Steven Stamkos still hasn’t scored a playoff goal since Game 1 against Montreal last year, which was also the last time Kucherov struck in the postseason prior to Friday. The Russian winger had a goal disallowed in the first overtime when he pushed Price and the puck into the net with his stick.
"We were joking, he might be one of the first guys to score two goals in overtime," said center Tyler Johnson, who scored his NHL-high seventh playoff goal.
Bishop has stopped 74 of 75 shots dating to the Lightning’s Game 7 victory against Detroit, and he’s now won eight straight against Montreal behind a 1.30 goals-against average.
"It’s nice, but it doesn’t mean much," Bishop said of winning the opener. "We just came off a series (against Detroit) where we lost the first game.
"You’ve got to put it in the past pretty quick. It’s nice to win the first game but now we have to forget about it and get ready for the next one."
A Game 1 home loss ultimately led to the Canadiens being knocked out in each of the past two postseasons. They haven’t bounced back after dropping an opener in Montreal since the 1993 Stanley Cup Final.