TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Ondrej Palat scored 36 seconds into overtime after Tampa Bay teammate Corey Perry tied it late in the third period, and the Lightning beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 on Tuesday night in the first NHL game following an extended holiday break.
Perry got the equalizer with 19.7 seconds left in regulation and the Lightning net empty before Palat won it off a pass from Victor Hedman.
“Scoring a late goal to tie is always exciting,” said Brayden Point, who had two goals and assisted on Perry’s goal in his return from an injury. “Luckily enough we get the two points in overtime. There was a lot of emotion."
It was the first NHL game since the Lightning won 4-3 at Vegas on Dec. 21 in the only game played that night. Dozens more were postponed over the past week-plus as the league turned a Christmas break scheduled to last three days into a six-day hiatus because of COVID-19 outbreaks and protocols.
Tampa Bay had six players and coach Jon Cooper unavailable in COVID-19 protocols. Montreal had nine players in protocols, including starting goalie Jake Allen.
Lightning assistant coach Derek Lalonde filled in for Cooper for the second consecutive game.
“Probably a little predictable the way things played out with where both teams' lineups were and the fact you’re coming off a break," Lalonde said. "I told the guys, again, huge credit for them to find a way like we’ve done all year long, hanging in there.”
Two more games were slated for later Tuesday night as NHL clubs began resuming their schedules.
David Savard ended a 49-game goal drought to put the Canadiens up 4-3 with 6:51 left in the third. Kale Clague had tied it at 3 for Montreal earlier in the third on his first NHL goal, coming in his 39th career game.
Point returned after missing 14 games with an upper-body injury. The center, who was hurt Nov. 20 against New Jersey when his left shoulder crashed hard into the end boards, finished with six shots on goal.
The Lightning, who have a seven-game home winning streak and are 9-1-1 in their last 11 games overall, also got a goal from Ross Colton. With goalies Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brian Elliott both out, Maxime Lagace made 27 saves in his first NHL game since May 8, 2021, with Pittsburgh.
Rafael Harvey-Pinard got a goal in his NHL debut for the Canadiens, who have lost eight of nine (1-6-2). Lukas Vejdemo also scored, and Sam Montembeault turned aside 32 shots.
“I think we created more chances,” Savard said. “We've just got to keep going that way. Keep it simple and put pucks to the net, and that's how you create goals.”
Point scored during a 2-on-1 at 11:38 of the first and put Tampa Bay up 2-1 just 2:32 later off a nifty pass from Alex Killorn.
Colton gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead at 8:11 of the second just after a Montreal minor penalty expired. The penalty resulted from a failed challenge by Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme. The on-ice call that negated Brendan Gallagher's goal due to incidental goalie interference was upheld after a video review.
“For sure it's frustrating,” Ducharme said. “He gets a chance at the net, gets pushed from behind. From what I saw, video guys, we all agreed that should have been a goal.”
Harvey-Pinard tied it at 2 early in the second. Vejdemo scored in his first game of the season 10:46 in.
Corey Schueneman assisted on Harvey-Pinard’s goal for his first point in his NHL debut.
It was the first time the teams played in Florida since Tampa Bay beat the Canadiens last July in Game 5 to win its second consecutive Stanley Cup.
The teams are on different paths this season. The Lightning have a league-best 46 points, while Montreal has the second-fewest with 17.
Canadiens: Ducharme said F Paul Byron (offseason hip surgery) is "getting a lot closer” to making his season debut.
Lightning: RW Nikita Kucherov (lower body) missed his 28th game but could be back in the next couple of weeks.
Canadiens: Play on Thursday night at Carolina.
Lightning: Visit the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
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Mark Didtler, The Associated Press