Canadiens-Lightning Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 28, 2011
DAN BURCH STATS Writer Randy Cunneyworth finally got his first win. Perhaps that's just the spark the Montreal Canadiens needed as they continue a long road trip with a matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night. Montreal snapped a five-game losing streak with a 6-2 victory over Ottawa on Tuesday night, giving Cunneyworth his first win as interim coach after four losses. "I would have taken it a couple of games earlier but obviously a win's a win, and it's the start of hopefully many more," said Cunneyworth, who was an assistant before he took over when Jacques Martin - his former coach with the Senators - was fired Dec. 17. The Canadiens, in the midst of a six-game trip, erupted for their highest goal total this season to snap the streak. Six players scored for Montreal, which had only nine goals during the skid. "He's been doing a good job for us and we haven't been playing up to par so it was really good to be able to get that one for him," said Carey Price, who stopped 33 shots. The Canadiens (14-16-7) were outscored 17-6 during Cunneyworth's first four games in charge. The overall five-game stretch without a point was the longest for Montreal since a five-game streak Oct. 6-17, 2009. "I would hope that we can play a little more uninhibited now, have a little more assertiveness in our game," said Michael Cammalleri, who had a goal and an assist. "It's one game, though. Let's not pretend that this is a 10-game winning streak already." This is the first meeting of the season between the Canadiens and Lightning, who play again next week in Montreal. The Canadiens won three of four last season, including once in a shootout. Both teams - Eastern Conference playoff participants last season - are languishing near the bottom of the conference. Tampa Bay (15-17-3), though, has shown signs of turning things around lately. The Lightning are 3-1-1 in their last five, beating Philadelphia 5-1 on Tuesday night. Steven Stamkos had two goals to bump his total to 22 on the season. He had 31 by the end of December 2010. "It probably wasn't the prettiest game out there, but we'll take the win and hopefully this starts something good," said Stamkos, who has five goals and five assists in 12 career games against Montreal. Mathieu Garon made 31 saves and continued his strong play for the Lightning. Garon has effectively replaced starter Dwayne Roloson, starting 14 of the last 16 games. "He was real solid," coach Guy Boucher said of Garon, who was drafted by Montreal and spent the first four seasons of his career with the Canadiens. "Good goaltenders do that." Martin St. Louis has three goals and six assists during a five-game point streak for Tampa Bay, which has played the fewest home games of any team in the NHL with 14. St. Louis has a point in eight of his last nine games against Montreal.
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