MONTREAL — Head coach Claude Julien felt a hot goaltender prevented the Montreal Canadiens from getting the result they deserved.
The Habs extended their losing streak to four games following a 2-1 defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night despite firing 39 shots on Andrei Vasilevskiy. Montreal outshot Tampa 39-23.
"The effort was there all night," said Julien. "We played a good game. Not the result we wanted. That's the frustrating situation we're in right now. You want your team to be rewarded for their effort.
"We're working hard, we're getting chances, but we ran into a good goaltender tonight."
Vasilevskiy stopped 11 shots in the first, 14 in the second and 13 in the third as the Lightning won their fifth straight game. Tampa Bay (22-13-4) players also blocked 21 shots.
The Lightning goaltender improved to 10-1-2 all-time against Montreal, including seven straight victories.
"I felt very good," said Vasilevskiy, who collected his 18th win of the season. "Lots of shots against and I stayed in the game the whole time. I've said this before: it's easier for me to play with 30 or 40 shots against, than 10 shots against.
"We did a great job blocking shots too."
In their return home from a seven-game road trip, the Canadiens (18-17-6) never stopped pressing for the equalizer after going down 2-1 in the opening frame.
Vasilevskiy denied Max Domi with the pad midway through the first before flashing the leather on rookie Nick Suzuki late in the period. The 25-year-old netminder made five saves on Nick Cousins and another five on Jeff Petry.
"We played them real hard," said Suzuki, who had two shots. "We were creating a lot of chances, forechecking really well, winning puck battles. Our chances just didn't go in the net. It could have been 3-2 early on.
"It's been a rough four games. We want to go back to keeping things simple. I think this was a step in the right direction."
Tampa Bay improved to 15-2-0 against Atlantic-division opponents this season.
The game's only goals came in the first period.
It took 42 seconds for the Lightning to score on their very first shot on goal. Blue-liner Erik Cernak threw the puck on net and Anthony Cirelli deflected it past Carey Price, who made 21 saves in defeat.
Petry levelled the score for Montreal at 5:48 as a penalty to the Bolts expired. The defenceman waited patiently for Alex Killorn to exit the shooting lane before firing a perfectly placed shot from the blue line into the top corner of the net.
Tampa made it 2-1 less than three minutes later after Price misplayed the puck behind his goal. The Canadiens goaltender meant to find defenceman Victor Mete but instead turned it over to Brayden Point, who fed Nikita Kucherov in front for his 14th of the season.
Price took full responsibility for the mistake.
"It's all on me," he said. "I just tried to do too much, to put it on his forehand and he wasn't expecting it. Overall I thought we did everything we needed to get two points. We deserved a better fate."
The Canadiens lacked firepower without Brendan Gallagher, out indefinitely with a concussion sustained in Tuesday's 3-1 defeat in Carolina. Gallagher missed his first game since February 2017, snapping a streak of 229 starts.
The recently recalled Dale Weise made his season debut in Gallagher's absence while Cousins was promoted to the first line. Weise dished out a team-high four hits, tied with Tomas Tatar.
The Canadiens made two trades prior to puck drop.
Montreal acquired left-shooting defenceman Marco Scandella from the Buffalo Sabres for a 2020 fourth-round pick. The Canadiens also traded defenceman Mike Reilly to the Ottawa Senators for forward Andrew Sturtz and a 2021 fifth-round pick.
Notes: Petry has nine points in his past six games. … Domi extended his point streak to eight games. … Montreal's losing skid began with a 6-5 loss to the Lightning last Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 2, 2020.
Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press