Dale Weise plays hero in Canadiens' Game 1 win over Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat checks Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban into...

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat checks Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban into the boards during the second period in Game 1 at Tampa Bay Times Forum. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:53 PM ET

OK, so who saw that coming?

Two teams used to playing chess on the ice turned it into a track meet Wednesday night as the Montreal Canadiens captured a wild opener to their Atlantic Division quarterfinal, a 5-4 result, when plugger Dale Weise ended it with 1:52 to go in the first overtime period.

Each team had two one-goal leads as they took turns quickly coming back on each other.

The Canadiens, frequently outshot in the regular season, had a huge edge on this night, but saw the Lightning score their four regulation-time goals — two by captain Steven Stamkos, who was flying and tied it 4-4 at 13:27 of the third — on just 16 shots (this is neither here nor there and nobody is mistaking the Habs for Team Canada, just Canada’s team, but Price gave up three goals on 106 shots at the Olympics. Just saying).

That it ended in overtime shouldn’t have come as a surprise: Three of the four regular-season meetings between them went to OT.

The two teams combined for just 13 goals in four meetings in the regular season.

A team always like to see its best players get in the groove off the bat and Stamkos, coming off a broken leg that cost him a trip to the Olympics in Sochi, looked pretty close to 100% in the second period.

He gathered in the puck near his own net and went flying down the right wing, wheeling by Montreal forward Brandon Prust and around scrambling defenceman Alexei Emelin. From the right wing circle he snapped a shot that beat Price to the stick side at 13:24 to give the Bolts at 2-1 lead.

It was a great individual play in a game that was dominated by two teams which didn’t give up a lot.

“The spotlight’s on Stammer, there’s no question. But I think the spotlight’s been on Stammer since he was 16 years old. The one thing — and teams win in all different ways, teams are built differently, teams are fast and small, big and strong — that can push teams over the top a little bit is having the player that is a little bit more gifted than most,” said Tampa coach Jon Cooper after the club’s morning skate,

“And he’s one of those guys. And I think if you were to poll everybody in the NHL, the scariest guys to have the puck on their stick, in an area of the ice, you’d have to think he’s probably be in the top three. You can contain him for 59 minutes, and it just takes one slip-up and he puts it in the back of the net.”


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Cooper also likes how Stamkos has grown in the space created by the departure of former captain Martin St. Louis, who whined his way out of town.

The big personalties that used to take up the air in the Tampa room have moved on — Vincent Lecavalier was bought out before the season — and this is now fully Stamkos’ team.

“But aside from his ability to score, he competes really hard, he skates, he plays the whole sheet of the ice, and what’s really blossomed this year in the absence of our two previous captains here, in my limited stint here, he really deferred to them in the leadership aspect, but now that he wears the C, it’s unbelievable what a born leader he is,” said Cooper. “He has blossomed into the guy who’s going to lead our team for years to come. I know he scored 10-some goals since he came back, but those first 10-15 games, he wasn’t himself. He was just slowly getting himself back. I would say these last five, six games that he’s played, he’s been an impact player for us. And sometimes it doesn’t show up on the sheet, but he takes a lot of attention that allows other guys to blossom.

“So just to have that elite player ... I’m just glad that we have one, and it’s him.”

The Lightning lost outstanding rookie Ondrej Palat to what looked like an upper-body injury. He played just one shift in the third period before exiting for the night.

The Canadiens, who weren’t a great possession team during the regular season, fared better, outshooting the Lightning 14-4 in the first period as Lindback looked like he was fighting the puck a little bit.

The Habs managed to dictate where the game would be played for much of the latter part of the opening 20 minutes. The Lightning managed just one shot on Price in the last 15 minutes of the period.

The teams swapped goals just 19 seconds apart as Tampa rookie Nikita Kucherov opened the series scoring halfway through the period, coaxing a shot between Price’s pads.

The Canadiens quickly replied with Tomas Plekanec getting some room to shoot on the left wing as Gudas blew a tire. That gave Plekanec enough room to skate in a lift a shot over Lindback’s shoulder to the long side and that kind of set the tone for the night.


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