They were on the ice at the end of the second period when Tampa scored a deflating insurance goal after the Habs had consistently pressed for the tying goal for the second half of the middle frame.
Jacques Martin didn't mince words afterwards on the decision to bench the pair, taking several backhanded jabs at the pair who have done nothing but disappoint all season.
"I just thought that when I shortened my bench we had to win some battles and get some production," Martin said. "I went with people who were willing to go to war."
When asked about the play of Ryan White, who joined Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec on the second line in only his second NHL game and did a hell of a job, Martin again took an opportunity to take a not-so-veiled shot at the players he benched in his favour.
"I thought Ryan gave us a pretty good game," Martin said. "With Plekanec going up against the Lecavalier line and with Malone on the left side, I wanted someone with size and strength."
The forward with the most size and strength on the team is Latendresse, and he was lined up directly opposite Malone, who was actually playing right wing.
It will be interesting to see what the fallout from this will be, but no one will be able to say Latendresse hasn't had his opportunities this season. He's played on the power play and gotten time as a top-six forward, yet hasn't performed like one. On one shift Saturday night there was a scramble with a puck loose in front of the Lightning goal. Plekanec was in there digging, as was Lapierre, and the player furthest from the net was Latendresse. In two periods of play he was credited with one hit, the third straight game he's had a single significant bodycheck.
On the bright side, there's White, who wanted to hide it but couldn't contain his excitement at playing such a significant role in the game. There was one shift in the second period where he won the puck on the forecheck, then lost it, almost created another turnover in the offensive zone, got back defensively to cover for a pinching defenceman, dug the puck out of his corner and was the lead man in on the dump and chase. In one shift, White showed more energy and will than Latendresse did the entire game.
"Playing with guys like that is a whole lot of fun, and that made my night a whole lot easier," White said afterwards. "I just want to go out there and get pucks to those two, work hard, get to the front of the net and hopefully we could get some opportunities.
"I didn't even know I was going out there, they just kind of threw me out there for the start of the second," he continued. "I kind of just ran with it. But I know what I have to do, and that's to work hard to help these guys out."
I don't want to pick on one guy, because Lapierre has not been delivering what was expected of him this season either, but with the tools Latendresse has it's a shame he doesn't use them to their top potential. Yes, he's slow, but he has everything else in his toolbox to become a player in this league, much like Ryan Malone is for the Lightning. Except, maybe, the heart. This will show us what he is truly made of.
So that loss drops the Habs record to 8-9-0 through 17 games, basically a third of the way through Andrei Markov's expected absence. Though I've been clear that I think under the circumstances this is a very respectable record, Mike Cammalleri obviously doesn't think so. As well he shouldn't.
"I like this team a whole lot more than our record shows right now," Cammalleri said. "But let's be honest, we're almost at the 20-game mark here, the season's not fresh anymore and we have to start thinking about positioning."
That positioning has the Habs in 10th place after Saturday night's games with 16 points, in the middle of a pack of five teams separated by a single point. If they can hang tough in that positioning for a few more months and weather this storm of injuries, the Habs should be well placed to go on a post-Olympic break surge toward the playoffs. But the key will be to maintain that position, which will be more and more difficult as players like Roman Hamrlik and Jaroslav Spacek continue to log way more minutes than their bodies can handle.
Cammalleri said the way to do that is to get more consistency not only from game to to game, but from period to period.
"You can't play a perfect 60 minutes," he said. "But I'd like the gap between the good and the bad not to be so great as it was tonight between the first and the third."