TAMPA -- Despite illness and injuries, trades and AHL call-ups, the Tampa Bay Lightning keep finding ways to win at home and keep their playoff hopes alive.
Tuesday night, with a makeshift lineup that included six members of the Norfolk Admirals and two players who arrived via trades in the early-morning hours, the Lightning defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum for their fourth consecutive home win and drew within five points of eighth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
"This is the best we could get from these guys," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "The American Leaguers and the new guys coming in having no idea how we play, they just jumped out there. Like we say to new players, 'We're in the business of doing the impossible,' and that's what we needed to do tonight."
Mathieu Garon, playing what might have been his best game of the season, made some phenomenal saves as he won for the fourth time in his last five games.
"Goaltenders can make a difference every game and tonight, we obviously needed good goaltending and we got it," Boucher said.
Adam Hall scored the eventual game-winning goal 28 seconds into the second period -- his second goal of the season and his first in 45 games -- but he preferred to put the spotlight on Garon.
"He was spectacular," Hall said of the Lightning goalie. "He made some huge saves for us on penalty kills. It was just a great, great game for him."
No stop was better than Garon's diving stick save on Erik Cole, which came during a Canadiens' five-minute power play. All together, Montreal had a man advantage for 8:58 but could only manage four shots on net.
"Their goaltender was really good," Montreal coach Randy Cunneyworth said. "We had some opportunities but he bailed them out. It was a good effort on Garon's part."
Steven Stamkos opened the scoring for Tampa Bay at 8:42 of the first period when he collected a centering pass from Teddy Purcell and deked Carey Price before sliding the puck home for his seventh goal in his last seven games. It was Stamkos' League-leading 44th score of the season. Purcell's assist extended his point streak to a career-high seven games. Martin St. Louis, who had a hat trick in Sunday's 4-3 win at New Jersey, had the other assist.
David Desharnais tied it at 16:02 when he carried the puck into the Tampa Bay zone, worked his way into the slot and zipped a shot past Garon for an unassisted goal.
Then it was Hall’s turn and he finished off a cross-ice pass from Ryan Malone for the game-winner. It was Hall's first game-winning goal since Nov. 10, 2010 at Buffalo.
"You never know when it's going to come," Hall said. "I just try to be as consistent as possible. Every day, we're working on habits and whether the points show it or not, you always find some way, killing penalties, blocking shots or scoring goals … whatever you can do, every single guy in here finds ways to contribute."
To further complicate matters for the shorthanded Lightning, Malone drew a game misconduct along with an instigator and a five-minute major for fighting midway through the second period after an altercation with Alexei Emelin. Also getting involved and drawing a call for bench interference was Montreal's Brad Staubitz, just acquired on waivers Monday from Minnesota.
Staubitz, who claimed he was just sticking up for a teammate, also got into a third-period scrap with Pierre-Cedric-Labrie and finished his first game as a Canadien with 17 minutes in penalties.
The loss was the fifth straight for Montreal (24-30-10), which occupies the cellar in the Eastern Conference.
Tampa Bay (29-28-6) concludes its brief homestand Friday night against the New York Rangers. By then, the team hopes the flu which sidelined Nate Thompson, Tim Wallace and Brendan Mikkelson will have run its course. But if more misfortunate befalls them, the Lightning can take comfort from Tuesday's team-effort win.
"That win speaks to how much character we have in the room," Hall said. "We believe in each other and the game showed that."