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Kucherov scores early, Tomkins earns first NHL win as Lightning beat Canadiens 5-3

MONTREAL — A red-hot Nikita Kucherov had a goal and an assist as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Montreal Canadiens 5-3 on Tuesday night.

Matt Tomkins, 29, made 22 saves in his third career start to earn his first NHL win.

Nick Paul scored twice, and Alex Barre-Boulet and Mikey Eyssimont also had goals for Tampa Bay (6-3-4), which gave up a three-goal lead in a 6-5 overtime loss in Toronto on Monday. 

Captain Nick Suzuki, Christian Dvorak and Michael Pezzetta replied for Montreal (5-5-2). Jake Allen allowed four goals on nine shots before getting the hook 13 minutes 50 seconds into the game. Samuel Montembeault was perfect with 24 saves the rest of the way.

The Canadiens lost their fourth game in a row, and the third in regulation. 

Tampa Bay went 2-for-5 on the power play. Montreal was 1-for-6.

Before some fans could take their seats, Kucherov opened the scoring with an effortless wrist shot over Allen’s right shoulder 22 seconds into the game for his 10th goal of the season. 

Kucherov, a Hart Trophy winner as league MVP in 2019, entered the game one point back of the league lead and is up to 11 points in his last three games.

With the Canadiens on the power play minutes later, sharpshooter Cole Caufield hit the post from the left circle in what turned out to be Montreal’s best chance at a goal through two periods.

Paul snuck in behind Canadiens defenceman Mike Matheson and tapped home a juicy rebound off a Stamkos shot to make it 2-0 at 7:15 of the first.

Barre-Boulet, of Montmagny, Que., scored 1:54 later after Canadiens forward Juraj Slafkovsky took a holding penalty, finishing off a tick-tack-toe sequence on the power play in front of family and friends in the Bell Centre crowd. 

A night after giving up their three-goal lead, the Lightning made sure to stretch it to four.

Eyssimont added to Tampa’s advantage with a short-side shot that trickled through to make it 4-0 with 6:10 left in the first — and that was it for Allen. 

The Canadiens settled things down in the second with Montembeault manning the crease.

Montembeault made a couple crucial saves midway through the frame to keep the deficit from getting even bigger.

First, he stoned Eyssimont on a breakaway. Minutes later, Kucherov danced through the Canadiens defence before setting up a wide-open Brayden Point, but Montembeault shut the door with a right-pad save on a deke to the backhand.

The Canadiens then did their best to cut the Lightning lead, much like the Maple Leafs had done Monday.

Tomkins made a couple saves during a scramble in front with Tampa Bay on the penalty kill to keep his shutout bid alive in the third.

But Suzuki broke through at 6:50 of the period with a one-timer off a centring feed from Caufield to get Montreal on the board with a power-play goal.

Pezzetta made it 4-2 just 32 seconds later by jamming the puck under Tomkins’ pad to bring the home crowd to life.

Montreal built off that momentum for most of the period, but couldn’t break through with a third.

Paul then scored his second of the night with just over two minutes left to put the game out of reach.

Dvorak got one back with 20 seconds left.


Tampa Bay forward Conor Sheary left the game with an upper-body injury after playing one shift in the first period, the Lightning announced. Sheary, who signed a three-year, US$6-million contract with the Lightning in free agency, has one goal and two assists in 13 games this season.


Tampa Bay: Hosts the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.

Montreal: Visits the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 7, 2023.

Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press