The Tampa Bay Lightning absolutely routed the Toronto Maple Leafs, defeating the Leafs by the score of 6-2 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
The Tampa Bay Lightning certainly had their work cut out for them as they made their way into the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. It’s never an easy day at the rink when you head into hostile territory. Things escalate to a whole new level when the team you’re playing is still fighting for their spot in the postseason.
Even if we ignore the heated history between these two teams, there was still a lot on the line as the Tampa Bay Lightning took on the Toronto Maple Leafs. At 89 points so far this season, the Maple Leafs are fighting to hold onto their position heading into the playoffs.
It didn’t take long before things got heated on the ice. After Lightning forward Cedric Paquette laid a particularly hard hit on Maple Leafs forward Tyler Ennis, Ennis went looking for a little retribution. Unfortunately, he didn’t exactly get his man. Instead, he dumped Ryan McDonagh to the ice.
The good news here is this didn’t seem to faze the Lightning very much. In fact, it became evident quite early the Lightning came to Toronto ready to play. The Lightning would strike first blood just past the halfway point in the period with a goal from Tyler Johnson. For Johnson, this was his 23rd goal of the season.
Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward Nikita Kucherov would pick up the assists on the Johnson goal. Nikita Kucherov seems virtually unstoppable this season. With his assist on the Johnson goal, Kucherov extends his point total to 111 (33 goals and 78 assists.)
There were less than two minutes left in the first period when the Lightning would strike once again. This time it would be Anthony Cirelli who would add to the Lightning’s lead over the Maple Leafs. This would be his 14th goal of the season. The assists on the play would go to Mikhail Sergachev and Alex Killorn.
The Lightning would have the only opportunity with the man advantage in the first 20 minutes of play. Regrettably, the Bolts were unable to make anything of their opportunity. Given their performance for the remainder of the period, it’s pretty safe to say they get a pass on that one.
As the first period came to a close, it was apparent the Bolts were firing on all cylinders. The Bolts outshot the Maple Leafs 14-9 in the first 20 minutes of play, converting two of those shots into goals.
After a first period like the one the Lightning just had, the sole mission became keeping momentum on their side and having as good of a second period as they had in the first period. Needless to say, the Bolts wasted little time in making their presence known in the second.
At 4:20 in the second, Tyler Johnson would pick up his second goal of the night (24th of the season) to extend the Lightning’s lead over the Maple Leafs to three. Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen was definitely not happy about the second Johnson goal. After the puck ricocheted off his mask, he was looking for a whistle.
Alas, with Andersen’s focus elsewhere and the whistle not forthcoming, it was rather easy for Johnson to put the puck in the back of the net. Andersen wasn’t aware of this at the moment, but his night was about to come to an end.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Exactly 30 seconds after the goal from Johnson, the Lightning would add insult to injury with a goal from Lightning forward Ondrej Palat. This was Palat’s 8th goal of the season with the assists going to defensemen Braydon Coburn and Jan Rutta.
Just like that, Andersen would get the dreaded call to the bench. Taking his place between the pipes for the Maple Leafs would be goaltender Garret Sparks. You know you’re having a good night when you can signal the end of the goalie’s night less than five minutes into the second period.
It was just past the halfway point in the second period when the Maple Leafs would finally get on the board. As much as it pains us to say this, Auston Matthews put some pretty sweet moves on Brayden Point to pick up his 31st goal of the season. This would make the score 4-1 in favor of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The important thing here would be for the Lightning to not allow the Matthews goal to define them. In other words, the Bolts needed to keep their heads in the game and not fall asleep at the wheel.
It would certainly seem as if the Bolts lost a bit of focus as Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak would make his way to the sin bin for Interference against Tyler Ennis. This would give the Maple Leafs the man advantage for a majority of the remainder of the second period.
Regrettably for the Maple Leafs, the Power Play didn’t seem to be much of an advantage. Just 1:13 into the Leafs Power Play, the Lightning would seize control once again. Cedric Paquette would pick up his 11th goal of the season with a Shorthanded Goal.
Toronto fans were livid at this point. As the camera panned the crowd, you could see the sheer disgust on every face. Honestly, we can’t say we blame them. No one wants to see their team down 5-1 at this point in the season. At the same time, they are playing the number one team in the league, so there’s always that.
As the buzzer would sound to end the second period of play, the Lightning would lead the Maple Leafs 5-1. The Bolts would outshoot the Leafs 13-10 in the second period for a two-period total of 27-19. The Lightning would also seize control of the Faceoff Circle with a Faceoff Win Percentage of 52-48 through two.
Apparently, the Lightning wasn’t done with the Maple Leafs just yet. At 5:59 in the third, Cedric Paquette would pick up his second goal of the night to give the Bolts a 6-1 lead over the Maple Leafs. The assists on Paquette’s goal would go to Yanni Gourde and Jan Rutta.
The Toronto Maple Leafs would get their second chance with the man advantage in the third period as Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph would make his way to the box for Tripping against Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri.
Needless to say, the Leafs did everything they could to avoid a repeat of their first Power Play opportunity. While the Leafs would prevent the Lightning from adding yet another goal to their substantial lead, they would also find themselves unable to add to their own numbers during their man advantage.
Before the final buzzer would sound, the Maple Leafs would get another goal under their belts. With less than five seconds left in the game, Maple Leafs forward Connor Brown would pick up his 6th goal of the season. The assists on the goal would go to Patrick Marleau and Nazem Kadri.
Alas, this would not be near enough to stop the onslaught of the Tampa Bay Lightning. When the buzzer sounded to end the game, the Lightning would emerge victorious over the Maple Leafs by the score of 6-2.
Before the start of the game, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner talked about how close the gap between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Maple Leafs was. You definitely can’t tell by the way the Lightning played tonight in Toronto.
In the third period, the Lightning outshot the Maple Leafs 15-9 for a three-period total of 42-28. As we mentioned before, the Lightning was firing on all cylinders and making both Maple Leafs netminders work for every single save they made.
Speaking of saves, Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy finished off the night stopping all but two of the Maple Leafs 28 shots on goal. This gave Vasilevskiy a Save Percentage of .929. The 24-year-old Russian netminder continues to lead the NHL in Save Percentage.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has a tough road ahead of them this week. On Thursday night, the Lightning will make their way to the Little Caesars Arena where they will take on the Detroit Red Wings for the second time in three games. From there, they will take on the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Washington Capitals.
The Bolts really don’t have a lot to lose in the final 12 games of the season; however, they have everything to gain. The Lightning has the opportunity to finish off the season strong and absolutely scorch their path to the postseason as the season comes to a close.
At this point, the Lightning needs to take each game one at a time and remain focused on the task at hand. Keeping their foot on the gas will remain essential to the way they make their way towards the postseason. The first step in this process kicks off on Thursday night in Detroit.