MONTREAL — Tomas Plekanec has stepped up his game lately, and the Montreal Canadiens are returning to their early season winning ways.
Plekanec scored twice and added an assist, helping the Canadiens to a 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night that extended Montreal's win streak to three games.
"He's going out there and playing solid defensively and creating offense as well," Alex Galchenyuk said of his linemate. "Happy to be playing with him right now."
After going seven games without a goal, Plekanec has seven points in his last three games, with three goals and four assists.
With the score tied at 1, Plekanec notched his first of the game at 6:40 of the second period when the Canadiens forward went five-hole on Ben Bishop following a missed clearance by Tampa's Tyler Johnson.
Plekanec got his second at 6:17 of the third to give Montreal a 4-1 lead, waiting out Bishop to beat the Lightning netminder from a tight angle.
"I had a lot of room in front, faked the shot and went around him," Plekanec said. "It was pretty tight, I had a pretty bad angle, but I had an extra second to slide it through the post and in."
The 33-year-old Plekanec also had an assist on the game's first goal shortly after blocking a shot in his own end.
"It all came from a great defensive play by Plekanec," said Brendan Gallagher, who took a pass from Plekanec at center ice before firing home a bouncing puck top shelf.
"He's in the right position defensively and it leads to offense," Gallagher added. "Doesn't happen if he doesn't defend the right way. He's playing really well right now. He's just consistent. He always takes care of his own men first. He's an easy guy to play with. Right now, the pucks are going in for us."
Devante Smith-Pelly also scored for Montreal. With 37 saves, Ben Scrivens earned his third consecutive victory after going 0-4 to start the season. Scrivens had back-to-back wins over the weekend, defeating his former club Edmonton on Saturday and then Carolina on Sunday.
Valtteri Filppula and Victor Hedman scored for the Lightning. Bishop stopped 23 of 27 shots for Tampa Bay, which has dropped consecutive games in regulation for the first time since Nov. 27-28 after a 5-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Monday.
"We were leaky tonight," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "When you're a little bit leaky, you're not getting the bounces you were getting in the past and we definitely have to tighten that up. It's been a little bit alarming."
Montreal lost defenseman Nathan Beaulieu and forward Brian Flynn to lower-body injuries on the same shift late in the second period. Neither returned for the third.
Tampa Bay shot 16 pucks on net in the third period, but was only rewarded once.
"We're not going to panic over 48 hours," Cooper said. "This is a humbling league. You can't get comfortable at any time. There's no panic mode for us."
Montreal has won three straight for the first time in more than two months. And the Canadiens started things off in this one on the right foot.
Following a blocked shot in their own end, Gallagher and Plekanec stormed down the ice on a 2-on-1. With the puck on his stick, Gallagher opted not to pass and fired home a bouncing puck top shelf past Bishop at 5:56 of the first.
A failed clearance by P.K. Subban led to Tampa Bay's tying goal 40 seconds into the second. Victor Hedman intercepted Subban's weak dump-out attempt before passing to Filppula, who used Ryan Callahan as a screen to beat Scrivens.
After Plekanec restored Montreal's lead, Subban made up for his earlier mistake. With 8 seconds remaining in the second, the defenseman's backhander went off Smith-Pelly's shin and in. Subban extended his points streak to seven, and has at least one point in 16 of his last 18 games.
NOTES: Canadiens D Jeff Petry (lower body) was not in the lineup. ... Six players from Canada's 1972 Summit Series team were honored in a pregame ceremony: Guy Lapointe, Ken Dryden, Yvan Cournoyer, Peter Mahovlich, Serge Savard and Pat Stapleton.