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Canadiens Postgame

Canadiens Close Out 2023 With Weird Goals & Big Hits vs Tampa



The Montreal Canadiens were in Florida on Sunday night to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the ultimate game of 2023.

Martin St-Louis’ club was the better team overall, as evidenced by their almost 70 percent control of quality scoring chances, but a few weird plays, including one of the oddest goals of the year, led to the Lightning emerging with a 4-3 win.

If you’re looking to keep discussing all things Habs, don’t forget to join me for a fun, post-game show with a great community of Canadiens fans. Here’s the link to join the discussion.

Let’s dive into the highlights.

Chances To Start Strong

The Habs controlled the first period by a significant margin. They had five high-danger chances at 5v5, while only allowing the Lightning to create one chance of their own.

Cole Caufield had the best chance of the period, and though some may say he should have done a better job capitalizing on his high-danger shot, Lightning goaltender Jonas Johansson also made a great save to keep his team in the game.

Teaching Moments

Two particular players had recurring issues surface against the Lightning.

The first was Juraj Slafkovsky. He has played much better in recent weeks, and his presence on the top line has led to great underlying numbers, but his hesitance when it comes to taking shots will haunt him in the long run.

He needs to take more shots, there’s no two ways about it.

Be greedy, Juraj!

The second was another question decision from defenceman Justin Barron that led to a turnover. Barron often makes great decisions, and those decisions often lead to goals.

Unfortunately, some of his decisions also lead to goals for opponents. He’ll have to improve his decision-making if he’s to enjoy a long career in the NHL.

Physical Matchup

The Canadiens and the Lightning put their most aggressive foot forward for the final game of 2023.

Suzuki led the charge, launching his opponent into the nether realm midway through the first period.

Josh Anderson also got in on the action, though his hit was deemed a penalty for charging. You could perhaps argue it was interference, as Erik Cernak failed to make contact with the puck, but it wasn’t a charge.

The Cole Train

Caufield did end up scoring, and as per usual, Suzuki was involved in the play. The Canadiens captain forced a turnover by pressuring Steven Stamkos and giving Caufield all the time necessary to find the back of the net.

The goal was Caufield’s 10th of the 2023-24 season.

When The Going Gets Weird, The Weird Turn Pro

The Habs took a well-deserved lead midway through the frame when Johnathan Kovacevic scored his fifth goal of the year.

Perhaps ‘well-deserved’ is pushing it.

A more accurate statement would be that Kovacevic scored one of the weirdest goals of the last 10 years thanks to a little help from the Lightning in-house DJ and the NHL’s obsession with never giving any play a moment to breathe.

There was no whistle on the play, but the DJ decided to start playing music, which led to a Pavlovian response from most players on the ice, except for Samuel Montembeault. He advised Kovacevic that the play was still alive and that Johansson had gone for a little skate in the corner of the ice, as most goalies do when the play is whistled dead.

Kovacevic fired the puck into an empty net from roughly 180 feet away, giving the Canadiens a 2-0 lead.

It was weird. It was entertaining. It was one of the most fun goals you’ll see all year.

Focus, Focus, Focus, Montreal Canadiens Focus!

After poor defensive coverage from Mike Matheson and David Savard led to the first Lightning goal of the game, the Canadiens were on their heels. It certainly did not help that Montembeault, who has been excellent this season, allowed one of the worst goals of his career.

Again, Montembeault has done much more good than bad this year, but no NHL-calibre goalie should allow such a weak goal, especially when his team is nursing a very fragile one-goal lead.

The Bolts took the lead shortly thereafter when Savard, who was having a pretty good game, not only screened Montembeault but also deflected the puck. Savard’s New Year’s resolution should be to stay on his skates a little more often in the defensive zone.

Suzuki scored his 11th goal of the year shortly after the Lightning took a 4-2 lead. It was an excellent goal, but in the end, it was all for naught, as the Lightning hung on to win 4-3.

All Montreal Canadiens statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted. Via Natural Stat Trick.