NHL Hockey

Confident Lightning ready for new-look Canadiens

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been so much better than everyone else in the NHL this season, even the smallest flaw is pounced on by critics.

When the Lightning scored just eight goals in their first five games coming out of their bye week and the All-Star break, there were questions about what was wrong with their offense.

The Lightning responded with a four-game winning streak in which they scored 22 goals, including a 6-0 victory Thursday night against visiting Dallas that extended Tampa Bay's points streak to eight games.

They'll put both streaks on the line Saturday night when they play host to the Montreal Canadiens.

"It's a ton of fun to come to the rink every day when things are going as well as they have this year," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos told NHL.com after Thursday's game. "We're a group that our tendency is to have some fun and relax and enjoy ourselves. When you're doing that, you're usually playing some good hockey and playing with confidence."

The Lightning are 43-11-4 and have a 15-point lead in the race for the Presidents' Trophy that goes to the team with the best regular-season record.

The Lightning took a 4-0 lead after the first period Thursday against a Dallas team that had gone 6-1-1 over its previous eight games.

"They're never stress free," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "The one thing is, you jump out to a 4-0 lead in the first period, in the locker room, we didn't think it was a 4-0 game. The pucks were going in the net for us, and we capitalized on our opportunities. When that happens, you're putting a team on its heels. It was how are we going to handle this? We got a couple more in the second, power play did what it had to do, and then you get to the third and you're playing for your goalie."

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 32 shots he faced for his fifth shutout of the season and the 17th of his career, tying Ben Bishop for the franchise record. Vasilevskiy has four shutouts in his past 13 starts.

The Canadiens opened a three-game trip Thursday with a 3-1 loss at Nashville. One bright spot for the Canadiens was the play of their newly formed fourth line.

Nicolas Deslauriers was joined by Nate Thompson and Dale Weise, who were making their debuts after being acquired in trades from Los Angeles and Philadelphia, respectively.

"They played well. There was good progress. They gave us what we wanted them to give us," Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. "They brought energy and scoring chances. It was good. Weise blocked a big shot that motivated the guys on the bench in the second period. We haven't seen a lot of that this year from our forwards, so it was good to see a guy that I hoped would provide a good example."

Deslauriers was also pleased with the line's debut.

"The first two or three shifts were about learning how we play together, but I think it went well. We had a couple of chances. We just have to continue to put pucks on net. We're going to try and keep on going like that," Deslauriers told NHL.com.

--Field Level Media

Updated February 15, 2019

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