TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Brandon Hagel had his second NHL hat trick, Steven Stamkos reached the 30-goal mark for the eighth time and the Tampa Bay Lightning rallied in the third period to beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-3 on Saturday night.
Stamkos tied it at 3 at 3:14 of the third with a power-play one-timer. Hagel put the Lightning ahead to stay at 5:58 with his second of the game when his deflection of Mikhail Sergachev’s shot went past Samuel Montembeault.
Hagel, playing his 200th NHL game on the first anniversary of being traded to the Lightning by the Chicago Blackhawks, completed his hat trick by hitting the empty net with 43.6 seconds remaining.
“Last year, I was packing my stuff up a year ago and playing a hockey game tonight, and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world,” Hagel said. “I think I couldn’t have come to a better place.”
Hagel’s ability to play up and down the lineup has impressed coach Jon Cooper.
“You can put him anywhere,” Cooper said. “He’s like a Swiss army knife. You can put him on different lines and he blossoms in different roles. This year he’s showing all sides of how versatile he is, and so it’s good for him. You love to see guys like that get rewarded.”
Victor Hedman also scored for Tampa Bay, which was coming off back-to-back road wins against the New Jersey Devils. Brian Elliott finished with 18 saves.
“We stepped on the gas,” Hedman said of the Lightning’s third-period domination. “These are tough games. There’s not an easy game in this league and we knew that coming in. (Montreal) has lost games, but they’ve scored a lot of goals in those losses.”
Mike Hoffman, Denis Gurianov and Jesse Ylonen scored, Nick Suzuki had two assists, and Montembeault made 36 saves for the Canadiens. They were coming off a 9-5 road loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday night in which they allowed seven goals in the first period.
“I felt that the group practised hard yesterday; we were engaged, we worked on things, and tonight it showed,” Montreal coach Martin St. Louis said after his team fell to 1-7-2 in March. “I really love the fight of our group today and the engagement. I think it’s a step in the right direction for us, to allow ourselves to compete down the stretch in tough circumstances.”
The Canadiens opened the scoring 5:12 into the game when Hoffman took Suzuki’s pass from the right boards and snapped a shot from the slot past Elliott. The Lightning got even at 11:31 when Hedman’s wrister from between the circles beat Montembeault.
Tampa Bay went ahead 2-1 at 4:50 of the second period when Hagel took the rebound of Nikita Kucherov’s shot off the end boards and beat Montembeault from the right circle. But Montreal got even 1:29 later when Gurianov beat Elliott on a one-timer from the lower right circle, then went ahead 3-2 when Hoffman set up Ylonen’s power-play goal.
Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin dressed for the game but did not see the ice after missing a team meeting Friday.
“Everyone has rules and accountability,” Drouin said. “I don’t want to be a special case.”
St. Louis said he’s turning the page.
“I think tonight was a fair thing, and Jo (Drouin) handed it tremendously well,” he said. “Me and (Drouin) have a great relationship. I got to know him a lot this year, and he’s had a great season for us this year. I love the kid, and for him to handle it the way he did, I gained even more respect for him.”
Canadiens: Host Tampa Bay on Tuesday night.
Lightning: Host New Jersey on Sunday night.
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John Kreiser, The Associated Press