Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop loves being public enemy No. 1.
After an altercation with Brandon Prust at the end of the second period of Tampa Bay’s 2-1 overtime victory over Montreal on Saturday afternoon, fans at the Bell Centre voiced their displeasure with the Bolts goaltender until the final horn sounded.
The Montreal faithful booed Bishop every time he touched the puck, contemptuously chanted his name, and even laughed with derision when he stumbled over his net.
“It was awesome,” said Bishop, who made 28 saves in Tampa Bay’s victory. “That’s how we play the game. Something like that, you never forget. It keeps you in the game. It reminds me of college — at the visiting rink, they’re like that the whole game. It’s fun.”
With the Lightning up 1-0 late in the second, sparks flew when Prust and Bishop shared a few words and exchanged punches during a television timeout.
Prust approached Bishop, who took offence at his comments and swung at the Montreal forward’s head. Prust answered with a couple of jabs of his own before referees separated them.
“He came down to my end, he came pretty close, he was chirping and yelling and saying stuff,” said Bishop. “One thing led to another. I usually try to stay away from those things, but sometimes they’re going to happen.”
All players on the ice got involved in the scrum. Five players were penalized on the play, including Montreal goaltender Carey Price for leaving his crease. Bishop and Prust each got a minor penalty. The end result was a two-minute man advantage for Tampa Bay.
After tensions subsided — but with Canadiens fans still booing Bishop’s every move — Daniel Briere levelled the score at 7:25 of the third, taking a cross-ice pass from captain Brian Gionta and firing home his ninth of the season over Bishop’s shoulder. The goal was Briere’s second in as many games.
Briere hasn’t been getting much ice time as of late. He played less than nine minutes in each of the last three games as centre on the fourth line.
“I have to be ready, I have to take advantage of my ice time whenever I get the chance, said Briere, who played 8:41 on Saturday. ”It’s about the only thing I can control when I’m on the ice.“
Briere was given the opportunity to play alongside Gionta and Plekanec in the third, and returned his coach’s favour with the game-tying goal.
“From the start of the year, every time we play together, good things happen, we make things happen,” said Briere of his third-period linemates. “That was the mindset I had going on the ice with them.”
Tampa Bay survived a late third-period penalty before the game was sent to overtime.
Nate Thompson scored the winner, his second goal of the game and fifth of the season, at 4:36 of overtime when Victor Hedman found him all alone in front of Price’s net.
“I just shot it as hard as I can,” said Thompson. “I’m not a guy who picks corners too often. It was the end of the period. I just closed my eyes and hit it as hard as I could.”
The Lightning (32-18-5), who snapped a two-game losing streak with the win, now have a five-point advantage over the Canadiens (29-20-6) in the Atlantic Division.
Thompson was also credited with the game’s first goal, at 5:58 of the second, after P.K. Subban put the puck in his own net.
With Alex Killorn in the penalty box for interference, Thompson skated into the Canadiens’ zone and sent an innocent-looking pass in the direction of the net. Subban deflected the puck between Price’s legs to give Tampa Bay the lead on a short-handed goal.
Christian Thomas, called up from the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs on Thursday, made only his second career NHL appearance, and first for the Canadiens. His father Steve, assistant coach for Tampa Bay, was behind the Lightning bench.
“I never really looked over,” said Thomas of his father’s presence. “I kind of forgot he was on the bench at some times. But it was definitely cool to play against him in the NHL. I got some good time out there to show what I can do.”
Thomas, who has 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 23 games with the Bulldogs so far this season, finished the game with one blocked shot in 8:16 of ice time.
Price made 34 saves in the loss.
The Habs and Lightning go head-to-head for the fourth and final time this season on April 1, in Tampa.
Notes: The Canadiens have now killed off 22 straight penalties. a Michael Bournvial was out with the flu. a Tampa centre Valtteri Filppula, who scored the shootout winner in the Lightning’s last visit to Montreal in November, missed the game with a lower-body injury. a Lightning forward and Olympic hopeful Steven Stamkos, still not game-ready, practised with his team on Friday, taking light contact from his teammates. Stamkos underwent surgery on Nov. 12 to repair a fractured tibia in his right leg.