Point leads Lightning over Canadiens, 4-3 in shootout
MONTREAL (AP) — Brayden Point scored in regulation and added the shootout winner and the Tampa Bay Lightning regained the top spot in the NHL with a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.
Nikita Kucherov and Ryan Callahan also scored in regulation to help the Lightning (42-17-3) win their third straight and move a point ahead of idle Vegas for the overall NHL lead.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves for his league-leading 36th victory of the season.
Steven Stamkos fought Karl Alzner in the first period after objecting to a knee-on-knee hit onh Kucherov. Stamkos was given 17 minutes of penalties on the play.
“I was watching Kucherov and it looked like a knee, fast,” Stamkos said. “And he kind of held his knee so I didn’t know if he was hurt or not. It was just kind of a reaction thing. I know Alzner well and he’s not a dirty player. It wasn’t as malicious as I thought at the time.”
Byron Froese, Joe Morrow and Max Pacioretty scored for Montreal. Antti Niemi, making his second straight start in relief of the injured Carey Price, stopped 36 shots. Price is sidelined indefinitely with a concussion.
Montreal fought off Morrow’s high-sticking penalty in overtime to force a shootout, where Point beat Niemi top shelf for the only goal.
“We maintained a good rhythm from start to finish,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. “There were some defensive mistakes that led to good scoring chances on both sides. Our goalie played a great game. Happy with the overall effort.”
Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec, for precautionary reasons, was a healthy scratch. The Canadiens are expected to trade the veteran center before Monday’s trade deadline. Jacob de la Rose centered the third line in Plekanec’s absence.
Froese opened the scoring by deflecting Jordie Benn’s shot from the blue line past Vasilevskiy at 8:52 of the first period.
Tampa tied it when Point crossed up defensemen Benn and Morrow before beating Niemi to the blocker side at 12:07.
Kucherov gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead on a power play at 7:32 of the second period to extend his point streak to nine games. Kucherov went five-hole on Niemi with a one-timer for his team-leading 33rd goal.
Less than two minutes later, Morrow tied it with a precise wrist shot through traffic and off the post.
Pacioretty, with the man advantage, ended an 11-game goal drought to give Montreal a 3-2 lead at 16:29 of the second period.
With Phillip Danault in the box for slashing, Callahan made it 3-3 at 2:11 of the third when he redirected Kucherov’s shot past Niemi.
NOTES: The Lightning have the second-best power play in the NHL. They finished 2 for 5 with the extra skater. ... Kucherov has 16 points in his last nine games.
Lightning: Host Toronto on Monday night.
Canadiens: Host Philadelphia on Monday night.