Despite being depleted by injuries, the Lightning completed a five-game season series sweep of Montreal with a 5-3 victory aided by a pair of assists from goalie Ben Bishop and two goals from Vladislav Namestnikov on Monday night.
The win put Tampa Bay (47-23-7), which clinched a playoff spot, only one point behind Atlantic Division leading Montreal (47-21-8). The Canadiens swept the Bolts in the first round of playoffs last spring.
"Everyone keeps talking about last year's playoffs, but we're not thinking about that at all," said Lightning star Steven Stamkos. "We're focused on this year.
"It's a great feat to beat a team that's first in the division five times. It was a pretty gritty effort."
Bishop started plays that set up breakaway goals by Namestnikov and Jonathan Drouin in the second period. Nikita Kucherov also scored for Tampa Bay.
Max Pacioretty, Jeff Petry and P.K. Subban scored for Montreal, which was outshot 31-13 through two one-sided periods and 44-28 overall. But they had 15 shots on Bishop in the third and managed to keep it close until Anton Stralman's empty-net goal in the final minute.
The Lightning outscored Montreal 21-8 for the season.
Pacioretty scoffed at the suggestion that Montreal does not match up with Tampa Bay and said the teams will start over from scratch if they meet again in the post-season.
"I hope we play them in the playoffs if people really think that passionately about it because we have a lot to prove against that team," the Canadiens scoring leader said. "They play very similar to us and it's not a matter of feeling uncomfortable.
"We play the same system as them. When they buy in they have success and when we buy in we have success. You saw the third period."
Bishop was the first goalie to record two assists in a game since Ryan Miller did it for Buffalo on Feb. 25, 2014. The NHL record of three was set by Calgary's Jeff Reese against San Jose on Feb. 10, 1993.
"I'm not really looking for (assists), but if it helps the team, it helps the team," said Bishop.
The Lightning were coming off a 4-0 loss in Detroit in which defencemen Jason Garrison (out 3-to-4 weeks) and Andrej Sustr (1-to-2 weeks) and scoring star Tyler Johnson (day-to-day) suffered upper body injuries.
The team that was already missing Brayden Coburn saw defenceman Victor Hedman leave in the third period with an undisclosed injury. Coach Jon Cooper said Hedman is questionable for a game Tuesday night in Toronto.
"It was a great team effort with the lineup we had," said Stamkos.
Only 1:24 into the second, Bishop caught Montreal on a line change as he hit Stamkos with a pass to the far blue-line to send Namestnikov in alone to score.
Pacioretty tied it shorthanded at 4:24 when he one-timed Tomas Plekanec's pass.
Another Bishop stretch pass had Drouin break in alone to deke Carey Price at 4:47. The Bolts intercepted a clearing attempt and Kucherov swiped Namestnikov's pass in at 18:07.
Petry scored from the point 23 seconds into the third frame, but Ondrej Palat sent Namestnikov in to beat Price with a wrist shot at 6:21.
Subban set up a wild finish when he wired one in from the point on a power play with 3:50 left to play.
Price fell short in his bid to tie Jacques Plante and Ken Dryden for the Canadiens record of 42 wins in a season.Suggest a correction