A year ago, Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher was running the bench for the Montreal Canadiens' AHL club in Hamilton, Ont.,so he could perhaps claim some credit for how well some of them played against the Lightning on Thursday night.

Two of his former Bulldogs, David Desharnais and Ryan White, set up Montreal's first goal by Andrei Kostitsyn and more recent Hamilton callup Nigel Dawes got the shootout winner as the injury-depleted Canadiens downed the Lightning 3-2 in Tampa Bay.

Montreal goaltender Carey Price was the chief architect of the win, stopping 35 shots in regulation time and making three more in the shootout.

"I think both teams were just trying to survive this game," said Boucher, whose club also has some injuries including one to key forward Ryan Malone. "We're slim too."

As well as White and Desharnais, Yannick Weber, P.K. Subban and Aaron Palushaj were former Boucher protegees in a lineup missing five regular defencemen and four forwards to injury.

"It was a big win with all the injuries we have," said Montreal coach Jacques Martin. "We played well 5-on-5. Their two goals were on the power play and they have a good one, but we did well at even strength.

"It starts with your goaltender and Carey was strong."

Dawes and Michael Cammalleri scored in the shootout, while Price allowed only one goal from Simon Gagne.

Andrei Kostitsyn and Brian Gionta scored in regulation time for Montreal (39-25-7), which has won seven of its last nine games.

Teddy Purcell, who was stopped on the final attempt in the shootout, had a goal in regulation and Gagne also scored for Tampa Bay (39-22-10), which is 2-4-3 in March.

The fifth-place Lightning saw their lead over sixth place Montreal in the Eastern Conference cut to three points.

The game was marred late in the first period by the ejection of Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier after an exchange of nasty crosschecks and slashes with Subban during a Tampa power play. Lecavalier absorbed a hard whack on the forearm and responded with a two-hander to the hip that dropped Subban to the ice, although he wasn't injured.

Lacavalier got a slashing major and a game misconduct while Subban got only a slashing minor. After the game, Lecavalier spoke only to Tampa reporters.

"When you're missing a key player it's a lot easier for the opponent to put their best players against our best players because our offence isn't spread out," said Boucher. "It becomes tougher for [Steven] Stamkos and [Martin] St. Louis.

"I've got to look at [the slash]. Vinny is not the type to lose his cool for nothing."

Dawes, called up Wednesday with Palushaj, was picked to go first in the shootout and beat Dwayne Roloson with a low shot. Martin said the coaches in Hamilton told him the veteran of more than 200 NHL games was good on penalty shots.

"It was good to contribute," said Dawes, the stocky forward obtained at the trade deadline from Atlanta along with defenceman Brent Sopel. "It's always nice to be able to chip in.

"When it got to the shootout I thought there was a chance I'd get to go. You just want to make the most of your opportunity.

Montreal took a 2-1 lead 3:58 into the third period when St. Louis mishandled a pass at the point and Gionta jumped on the loose puck and scored on a short-handed breakaway.

A minute later, Benoit Pouliot put Montreal in a hole by taking hooking and roughing penalties together. Gagne tied it when he batted down a St. Louis pass and saw it fall past Price at 9:29.

On a 4-on-3 power play to start the second, Purcell corralled a rebound in front and flipped it past Price to open the scoring at the 35-second mark.

Montreal's man advantage had ended when White dug a puck out from along the boards to Desharnais, who slipped it to Kostitsyn for his 18th goal at 5:40.

Martin said Tomas Plekanec and Jeff Halpern, who missed the game with lower body injuries, would not make the trip to play the Rangers in New York on Friday night and Minnesota on Sunday, but defenceman Hal Gill, who sat out with a flu, would be in New York but is not certain to play.

Boucher said Gagne may have to miss up to three games while "a procedure" is done on an undisclosed injury.

Palushaj made his NHL debut and had a few good scoring chances and Dawes played his first game for Montreal.