The Canadiens made it clear from the start they would take the play to the Lightning, and their physical play put them in an early deficit. With Michael Ryder (roughing) and Sheldon Souray (cross checking) in the box, Vinny Lecavalier scored 10 seconds into a five-on-three to put the Lightning up 1-0 at 2:35.
The play started with a Dave Andreychuk pass from the lower left circle to Martin St. Louis at the right edge of the crease. Jose Theodore made a left skate save on St. Louis' shot, but Lecavalier knocked in the rebound from the slot.
Fredrik Modin gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead at 8:33. After the Lightning forecheck forced a turnover in Montreal's end, Cory Stillman passed to Brad Richards at the right circle. Theodore stopped Richards' shot, but the puck dropped into the crease, where Modin swatted it into the net.
The Canadiens made it 2-1 when Saku Koivu scored on a rebound of Alex Kovalev's shot from the right circle with 3:20 left.
THE POSITIVE: The Lightning matched the Canadiens' physical play and scored on a power play to boot.
THE NEGATIVE: Modin was penalized for closing his hand on the puck with 5:10 left, leading to the Canadiens' power-play goal.
KEY PLAY: With Nikolai Khabibulin tied up along the boards, Eric Perrin got back to cover the open net and prevent a Montreal scoring chance with seven minutes remaining.
KEY PLAYER: Theodore made spectacular saves on a Ruslan Fedotenko backhand and Dmitry Afansenkov breakaway to keep the Canadiens close.
2nd: Escaping with bigger lead
The Canadiens came out flying, putting four shots on net in the first three minutes, most after a Cory Sarich turnover at the Lightning blue line.
Montreal continued to take it to Tampa Bay, outshooting it 8-3 at the halfway point and taking liberties with its sticks every chance it got; whether it was Saku Koivu slashing Vinny Lecavalier in the skate after an offsides call or Andrei Markov cross checking Martin St. Louis at 16:09.
The Lightning eventually returned the favor. Pavel Kubina checked Richard Zednik into the sideboards with about seven minutes left, and Andre Roy caught Markov with an elbow behind the Canadiens net at 10:08.
Lecavalier gave Tampa Bay a huge lift with a breakaway goal with 2.4 seconds remaining. Sarich sprung Lecavalier down the right wing, and the center beat Jose Theodore low on the glove side.
THE POSITIVE: The Lightning played, arguably, its worst period of the postseason with one giveaway after another yet managed to extend its lead.
THE NEGATIVE: Cory Stillman broke his stick as he tried to shoot from the right circle after receiving a pass from Fredrik Modin on a two-on-one at 6:40.
KEY PLAY: Montreal had a golden scoring opportunity with 5:25 left, but Nikolai Khabibulin twice stopped Alex Kovalev on a breakaway with glove saves.
KEY PLAYER: When nothing else seemed to be working, the Lightning leaned on Khabibulin, who stopped all 11 shots he faced.
3rd: Defense first
The Lightning entered the period up on the scoreboard but down a defenseman after Dan Boyle left with an upper-body injury.
Sitting on a two-goal lead, Tampa Bay tightened its defense in the period, which lacked the chippiness of the first two.
One of the loudest ovations from the crowd of 19,435 came at 7:10, when Eric Perrin got open in front of the Montreal net. But Jose Theodore stopped the rookie twice from point-blank range.
Vinny Lecavalier had a chance for a hat trick at 9:55, but Theodore stopped him from in front.
THE POSITIVE: Lecavalier built on his breakout performance in Game 1, and the Lightning took a two-game lead.
THE NEGATIVE: Depending on the severity of Boyle's injury, the Lightning could be without one of its top offensive defensemen.
KEY PLAY: Lecavalier's goal at the end of the second period seemed to take the wind out of Montreal's sails and infuse new life into Tampa Bay, which played much better in the final period.
KEY PLAYERS: Defensemen Pavel Kubina, Cory Sarich, Brad Lukowich, Nolan Pratt and Darryl Sydor picked up the slack after Boyle left.