The Lightning are the only Eastern Conference team Montreal hasn’t beaten this year, which makes for a big game tonight when the Habs host Tampa Bay at the Bell Center.
“We have to be intense,” Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien said of his club, which is 0-3-1 versus the Bolts this season. “There are just big games left. Tonight’s game is no exception.
“We have to play intense hockey because we know that April 15 is coming fast, and that things will get even more intense than they are now.”
The Lightning have dominated the season series, outscoring the Habs 16-5. While Montreal has gotten gradually better throughout the year — they lost 7-1 in the first meeting, 4-2 in the second, 1-0(OT) in the third, 4-2 last time out — it sounds as though actually beating the Lightning mean more to Montreal than just two points.
“A win tonight would be good for our team,” Therrien explained. “Both physically and mentally.”
On the other side of this burgeoning rivalry, it’s easy to see why the Bolts are jacked up to complete the season sweep. They were unceremoniously dumped in four straight by Montreal during last year’s opening playoff round, a loss came with No. 1 netminder Ben Bishop on the shelf and a few officiating decisions that head coach Jon Cooper took issue with.
As for the present, the Lightning can draw to within one point of Montreal for top spot in the Atlantic Division with a win this evening. But they know it won’t be easy.
“It’s going to be a tough test tonight,” Brian Boyle said, per the club website. “And it’ll be a tough building to play in.”