The Lightning have finally snapped a four game losing streak on the ice at the Air Canada Centre.
The last time the Bolts won on the road in Toronto was March 14, 2011.
The Lightning let their presence be known very early in the game. Just fifty nine seconds into the game, Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas fired a wrist shot that would fly past Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer, giving the Bolts the early lead. The assist on the goal would go to Valtteri Filppula, who would pick up his 50th point of the season.
Unfortunately, the celebration wouldn’t last very long. Just under three minutes later, Bishop would get sniped by Toronto right wing Phil Kessel with a snap shot. The assists on the Kessel goal went to left wing James van Riemsdyk and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson.
This game would quickly turn into a firestorm really quickly.
Just over the halfway point in the period, the Maple Leafs would take the lead with a tip-in goal from Maple Leafs left wing Nikolai Kulemin.
Just under a minute later, the Bolts would find themselves on the power play as Maple Leafs right wing David Clarkson would find himself called to the box for 2 minutes for Interference against Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman. The Lightning would capitalize on the power play opportunity with a power play goal for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. The lone assist on the goal went to Filppula, who would pick up his second point of the night.
This is the point in the game where things got scary. With just under five seconds left in the period, Maple Leafs defenseman Paul Ranger would play the puck behind the net, when he would get checked by Lightning center Alex Killorn. Unfortunately, Ranger would turn into Killorn as he was approaching, and as a result, Killorn, seemingly unintentionally boarded Ranger sending his head into the dasherboard.
Ranger would remain on the ice for quite some time. While he was able to move his legs, a stretcher was still brought out to remove him from the ice. While Ranger was being attended to, both teams were sent to their locker rooms for intermission. According to reports, Ranger was carted off the ice on the stretcher with a neck brace on. Later in the evening, he was transported to a hospital as a precautionary measure. According to Sun Sports, he was awake, alert in stable condition.
After the intermission, the two teams would take the ice to play the remaining time in the first period before the two goaltenders would switch sides and the normal course of the game would resume.
As a result of the boarding call, Killorn would receive a five minute major penalty for boarding and a ten minute game misconduct.
When the second period kicked up, everyone got right back to business. Just under six minutes in the period, Steven Stamkos would fire a wrist shot that would easily find its way past Reimer. This goal would give Stamkos a natural hat trick, his first since returning from injury. The assists on the Stamkos goal would be accredited to left wing Ryan Malone and defenseman Eric Brewer.
This would be the only goal from their side during the second period. However, there was quite the scuffle between B.J. Crombeen and David Clarkson at 11:32 in the period. Both of them would serve 5 minute majors for fighting and Clarkson would serve an additional 2 minutes for Holding.
In the third period, Toronto would attempt to make a comeback. At 8:20, a goal from defenseman Jake Gardiner would get one past Bishop with the assists from defenseman Cody Franson and center Tyler Bozak.
Fortunately for the Lightning, at 12:56 in the period the Lightning would score what I like to refer to as an “insurance goal” on the power play. Tyler Johnson would net the goal, picking up his 2nd point of the night.
The assists on the play would go to Malone and right wing Teddy Purcell. This would mark a milestone for Bugsy. The assist on the Johnson goal would be his 200th point in a Lightning jersey.
Ultimately, the Leafs would fall 5-3 at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
This was most certainly an important win for the Bolts. Had they fallen to the Maple Leafs tonight, the Leafs would have taken over the Lightning’s spot in the standings, thus relegating them back to the Wild Card race. Instead, the win has propelled them back into second place, three points ahead of Toronto.
With his two assists tonight, Valtteri Filppula extended his point streak to 6 games.
The Lightning did show a temporary lack of discipline in the first period which allowed them to drop two points in a row, but they were quick to tie up their loose ends and get their heads back in the game.
Tomorrow is going to be a tough one for the Bolts. After playing such an intense game tonight, they will have to immediately turn around and head to the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa to go head-to-head with Jason Spezza and the Ottawa Senators.
This is a very rough and tumble team, and for a team like the Lightning, who will be playing the back half of a back to back, they will have to make sure that they are well-rested and have their head in the game if they want to continue the momentum.
At this point in the season, they need to play every game as if it is a playoff game. Playing like this will ensure that the Lightning will find themselves in a solid position when the post season kicks off in April.
What did you think of tonight’s game? What do you think the Lightning need to do to ensure that they keep the momentum rolling as they head into Ottawa? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Your Three Stars of the Game:
1. Steven Stamkos
2. Tyler Johnson
3. Jake Gardiner