Posted April 03, 2012 on AP on Fox
The Tampa Bay Lightning hurt a Southeast Division rival's playoff chances in their last game. They won't be playing spoiler when they visit Montreal. Tampa Bay opens a season-ending road trip Wednesday night when the Eastern Conference-worst Canadiens try to snap a four-game losing streak. Eliminated from postseason contention Saturday after coming within one win of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, the Lightning (37-35-7) closed their home schedule Monday with a 4-2 victory over a Washington team which is battling Buffalo for the East's eighth and final playoff spot. Steven Stamkos added to his franchise record and league lead with his 57th and 58th goals in the final 63 seconds. He's matched a career high with 95 points, four shy of tying Martin St. Louis (2010-11) for the third-highest total in club history. "When you're in the position we are, you just play spoiler," said Stamkos, who has eight goals and three assists during a six-game point streak. "You try to win every game. I don't think you come into games with grudges against certain teams, but after it's that much more sweet to win, especially our last game at home and against a team that we've battled with the last couple years." The Lightning open their three-game trip by closing the season series with Montreal. The home team has won all three meetings, with the Canadiens (29-35-15) posting a 3-1 victory Jan. 7. Stamkos failed to score in that game but had a goal in both of Tampa Bay's home wins. He has played seven games at Bell Centre and totaled four points - his fewest in any arena he's visited at least five times. Montreal, 3-0-1 in the Lightning's last four visits, will try to extend its home point streak to a season-high five following back-to-back road losses to the New York Rangers and Capitals. After sitting out Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to Washington, goaltender Carey Price will also miss the team's final three games with a concussion suffered in practice late last week. That means Peter Budaj, who turned aside 31 shots Saturday but suffered his seventh loss in eight starts, will make his first appearance versus Tampa Bay in 2011-12. The Canadiens, who will miss the postseason for the first time since 2006-07, could get a boost if defenseman Tomas Kaberle and forward Travis Moen return from upper-body injuries. "It's never easy to miss games and sit on the side and watch the team play so it will be good to get back in and try to help the team," Moen, who has missed the last 21 games, told the Canadiens' official website. Forward Erik Cole, who along with defenseman Josh Gorges are Montreal's only players to appear in every game, will look to add to his career-high goal total (32) after scoring 10 last month. Only Stamkos (12) and Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin (11) had more. Cole, who will play in his 700th NHL game, has eight goals and 20 points in his last 15 games against Tampa Bay. He'll likely face Lightning netminder Dwyane Roloson for the first time this season with former Canadien Mathieu Garon sidelined by a groin injury.
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