It was a huge game for the Habs Thursday night in Tampa.
Going into the game, the Canadiens were in the 12th in the East - two points up on the Lightning.
Much like the Ottawa game, Montreal surrendered the first goal. But Mike Cammalleri tied it at one. He picked up a great pass from David Desharnais and put it upstairs. It was Cammalleri's first power play goal of the season.
In the second period, Desharnais' wrister through a screen beat Mathieu Garon to give the Habs a 2-1 lead. Erik Cole, set up by Max Pacioretty, extended the lead to 3-1.
And then the wheels fell off.
Former Hab JT Wyman let a wrist shot go that trickled through Carey Price. And the whistle blew before the puck crossed the line. It went to video replay and the goal was awarded. Some believe the refs made the wrong call, but the initIal wrong call was the whistle should have never blown in the first place. It was a bad goal allowed by Price.
And it changed the momentum of the game.
In the final frame, the Habs went through a span of about seven minutes of poor attention to detail in defensive coverage. That led to Marc-Andre Bergeron's goal from the point that tied the game at three.
Later, Vincent Lecavalier beat Erik Cole clean on a draw in the Montreal zone and went straight to the net. Cole failed to pick him up and Lecavalier beat Carey Price to make it 4-3.
The Canadiens had a chance to tie it up when they went on a power play with 1:32 left in regulation. But, they couldn't get it by Garon. If the Canadiens miss the playoffs, this is a game they will probably remember. Why? Because when you are battling for a playoff spot and you face a team within your conference, you cannot blow a 3-1 lead.
It's unfortunate, because the Habs outshot Tampa in every period and 34-22 overall. They outchanced them. The forecheck was more aggressive. The power play had better puck movement. But in the end, Tampa was more opportunistic. And Mathieu Garon was better than Carey Price.
Plain and simple.
The Canadiens are now 13th in the East and are six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. The postseason is still within reach, but where it gets complicated is that every team ahead of them in the conference has played fewer games.
The Habs' road trip comes to end tomorrow nite when they visit the Panthers in Florida.