TAMPA, Fla. — Tyler Johnson scored a buzzer-beater to put the Montreal Canadiens on the brink of elimination.
Johnson scored with 1.1 seconds remaining in regulation to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 2-1 victory in Game 3 Wednesday night at Amalie Arena.
“It happened really quickly,” said Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban.
“It seemed like they had seven guys on the ice to be honest with you.”
The Canadiens face elimination in Game 4 Thursday night.
Montreal controlled the puck and the play for most of the night but lost in just about the most heart-breaking way possible. The puck crossed the line just before the buzzer to give Tampa Bay a three games to none lead in the second-round playoff series.
Brendan Gallagher scored the only goal for the Habs, who got 17 saves from goaltender Carey Price but not one more to send the game into overtime.
“It seems like we’re finding ways to lose games,” said Gallagher.
Alex Killorn scored the first goal for the Lightning, who have won all eight meetings with Montreal dating back to the regular season.
Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop stopped 30 of the 31 shots he faced for the victory.
After becoming the 101st team in NHL history to win the first two games of a best-of-seven series on the road, the Lightning were worried about matching the Habs’ desperation. A sleepy start across the board made that seem like less of a concern.
Then, 12 minutes in, a turnover by Montreal defenceman Andrei Markov gave Tampa Bay a chance to cycle the puck. Steven Stamkos fed Killorn with a pretty back-handed pass, and Killorn beat Price high glove side to make it 1-0.
The Habs couldn’t generate much in the opening period save for a rocket of a point shot by Subban that rang off the post behind Bishop. They turned up the pressure in the second and gave Price some down time.
Max Pacioretty got a back-hander on Bishop early in the period and Dale Weise had perhaps the best scoring chance but was denied by Bishop’s stick that was laying on the ice. Jeff Petry fired off Bishop’s right shoulder and hit iron, and it looked like the Habs couldn’t buy a goal.
Meanwhile, the Lightning went 18 minutes 41 seconds without a shot before Nikita Kucherov got one off late in the second. Chants of “Carey, Carey” may have only served to wake Price up.
With all the opportunities the Habs created and couldn’t cash in on, they began to press. But with the puck in the offensive zone they finally broke through.
At 10:03 of the third, Gallagher put the puck on net and tapped it in under Bishop’s right pad. It was their first goal in 59:57 dating to the third period of Game 2.
The Habs looked like they would survive to force overtime but then gave up the goal to Johnson in the dying seconds.
“It’s a bad way to lose,” said Montreal forward Tomas Plekanec.
Notes — David Desharnais returned to the Habs’ lineup after missing Game 2 with an illness. He replaced Brian Flynn. … Injured Lightning forward Cedric Paquette (undisclosed) did not play in Game 3. Jonathan Drouin made his series debut on the fourth line.
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Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press