MONTREAL (AP) — Tampa Bay rookie Yanni Gourde pointed to the two points in the standings — not his own two goals.
“It’s pretty amazing feeling scoring two goals against Montreal in this building, but what we really wanted was two points tonight and that was my main concern,” said Gourde, from St. Narcisse, Quebec. “It’s amazing just being in this situation, a playoff push. It’s very fun.”
Nikita Kucherov had his 40th goal of the season and the Lightning kept their playoff hopes alive with a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Friday night.
Alex Killorn also scored for the Lightning. They need to win their final regular-season game Sunday against Buffalo and have Toronto and the New York Islanders lose to take the final spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Lightning are 19-6-4 since Feb. 4.
“We’ve had a lot of guys hurt, but there’s definitely been an urgency in these last 20 games where we haven’t been close to a playoff spot and now we’re a point away,” Killorn said.
Dwight King and Artturi Lehkonen scored for the playoff-bound Canadiens.
The desperate Lightning faced a Canadiens team that had already clinched first place in the Atlantic Division and rested three banged up starting defensemen — Shea Weber, Jordie Benn and Alexei Emelin.
“I thought we struggled in the back tonight,” Montreal coach Claude Julien said. “But on Wednesday, we’ll have a lot of players back.”
Kucherov could have had three goals in the first period.
The 23-year-old Russian was robbed by Carey Price 3:59 into the game, then froze the Montreal defense on a rush and hit a post from the slot at 11:42, but Gourde fired in the rebound to open the scoring.
At 19:50, Ondrej Palat flipped a pass into the neutral zone that the speeding Kucherov controlled with a quick slap of the stick before beating Price inside the near post.
Lehkonen found King coming off the bench with a stretch pass. He went in alone to beat Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pads for his first goal in 16 games as a Canadien at 9:59 of the second.
Killorn got it back at 14:19 on a rush after Cory Conacher forced a turnover at the Tampa Bay blue line.
Lehkonen saw his pass go in off a skate at 4:36 of the third but, only 21 seconds later, Gourde was left alone on the left side and put Conacher’s pass into an open side for a fifth goal in his last seven games.