TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Dale Weise scored 18:08 into overtime to give the Montreal Canadiens a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the opening game of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series on Wednesday night.
Daniel Briere passed from behind the net to Weise in the right circle, and he beat Anders Lindback for the winning score. Lindback stopped 39 of 44 shots while filling in for injured goaltender Ben Bishop.
Carey Price stopped 21 shots for the Canadiens, who blew a pair of third-period leads. Brian Gionta had a short-handed goal and Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller and Thomas Vanek also scored for Montreal.
Steven Stamkos scored twice for Tampa Bay, including the goal that forced overtime.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Friday night.
Three of the four regular-season meetings between the teams were decided in overtime or a shootout, while the fourth was clinched by an empty-net goal.
This one was just as tight, with the Lightning making the most of a limited number of opportunities against Price and the Canadiens overcoming a pair of one-goal deficits before squandering a pair of their own while outshooting Tampa Bay 35-16 in regulation.
Vanek and Eller scored in third period for Montreal, each giving the Canadiens a lead that Price couldn’t protect. Killorn countered for Tampa Bay to make it 3-all, and then fed a perfect pass to Stamkos for the goal that forced overtime.
Nikita Kucherov scored off a pass from J.T. Brown to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead at 10:09 of the first period. The celebration among the sellout crowd of 19,204 had barely begun when Plekanec angled a well-placed shot past Lindback from the left circle to tie it just 19 seconds later.
Stamkos’ seventh career playoff goal gave the Lightning another lead that wouldn’t hold up. Plekanec nearly knotted it for the second time when he hit the post less than 30 seconds after Tampa Bay went up 2-1, but Lindback wasn’t as fortunate when Gionta gathered a loose puck and skated in on a breakaway for his short-handed goal.
The 6-foot-6 Lindback stopped the first shot, but Gionta scored on the rebound to make it 2-2 at 16:39 of the second.
The teams are facing each other in the playoffs for the first time since Tampa Bay’s four-game sweep of the Canadiens in the 2004 Eastern Conference semifinals. The Lightning went on to win their only Stanley Cup title and have won just two postseason series since — both in 2011.
With a coach who’s finishing his first full-season behind a NHL bench, the Lightning weathered the loss of an injured Stamkos for 45 games and remained focused in the wake of the trade deadline deal that sent Martin St. Louis to the New York Rangers. They finished with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference — quite a leap for a team that finished 28th in the league a year ago.
Montreal has won 24 Stanley Cup titles, though none since the team’s 1993 championship run. Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper says he’s not concerned about his young players being in awe of playing an opponent with such a rich tradition or how they will handle the added attention they’re receiving in Canada while facing the only Canadian franchise in this year’s playoffs.
NOTES: Bishop missed fourth straight game because of a left elbow injury. His status for the remainder of the series remains uncertain. … Montreal was 0 for 14 on the power play against Tampa Bay during the regular season. Those problems continued Wednesday night, when the Canadiens were 0 for 2. The Lightning also were 0 for 2 on power-play opportunities. … Canadiens LW Brandon Prust returned to the lineup after missing the final 12 games of the regular season with an upper-body injury. … Chicago Blackhawks senior adviser Scotty Bowman, a five-time Stanley Cup winner in the 1970’s as the Canadiens coach, was at the game. Montreal has won just two Stanley Cups (1986, 1993) since Bowman departed following the 1979 playoffs.