Tampa Bay Lightning scores 3 unanswered goals to defeat Maple Leafs

The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three unanswered goals over the course of the second and third periods to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 in Toronto.

The Tampa Bay Lightning had a bit of a letdown on Tuesday night as they finished off their back-to-back series with a 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. As the season prepares to come to a close, the Lightning needed to put the loss to the Canadiens in the rearview mirror and focus on the task at hand.

Tonight, the Lightning made their way to the Scotiabank Arena to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both the Lightning and the Leafs have secured their place in the postseason. Without the pressure of fighting for a playoff spot, these two teams were free to truly do battle for the final time this season.

Regrettably for the Tampa Bay Lightning, it would be the Toronto Maple Leafs who would draw first blood. Less than five minutes into the first period, Maple Leafs leading point-scorer Mitchell Marner would pick up his 26th goal of the season and get the Leafs on the board first.

Needless to say, this is not exactly the start the Lightning would’ve hoped for, but there was definitely no reason to start panicking with so much hockey left to play. It’s not always easy to look at the positive side of things when your team goes down early in the game, but it’s definitely the most rational route.

It didn’t take long for tempers to flare between these two Atlantic Division opponents. Mere minutes into the game, the Lightning and Maple Leafs could be seen pushing and shoving in front of the Leafs net. If this was any indication of what was to come, it was about to be an interesting night of hockey.

When the buzzer sounded to end the first period of play, the Lightning would still trail the Maple Leafs 1-0. While this may seem a little dismal to Lightning fans, there is at least one definitive positive to the first twenty minutes of play by the Bolts.

The Lightning outshot the Maple Leafs 12-9 in the first period. As scary as this sounds, this is almost as many shots on goal as the Bolts had in the first two periods on Tuesday night (18) against Montreal. There was no denying the Bolts were more offensively aggressive tonight in Toronto.

Regrettably, it would be the Maple Leafs who would dominate the faceoff circle. The Leafs controlled the faceoff circle 38-62 in the first period of play. This is definitely something the Lightning would need to address if they wanted to get in the game and control the narrative.

It was apparent defensemen like Victor Hedman and Dan Girardi being out of the lineup was affecting the team to a degree. At the same time, the defense was still playing moderately well in the first 20 minutes.

Both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs seemed to limp into the second period. It was almost the four-minute mark in the period before either team would net their first official shot on goal. The team that struck first was the Maple Leafs, but it wouldn’t be long before the Lightning would make their presence known.

The Lightning would find themselves on the first Penalty Kill of the game as Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn would head to the sin bin for two minutes for Hooking against Maple Leafs forward Connor Brown. The Leafs would take their eyes off Steven Stamkos for a split second and the captain made them pay.

Stamkos would pick up his 44th goal of the season to tie things up for the Bolts. The lone assist on the Stamkos goal would go to defenseman Ryan McDonagh. For McDonagh, it was his 35th assist of the season.

It wasn’t long before the Lightning would end up with a Power Play of their own. The Bolts would do well the apply pressure to the Leafs and keep the puck in the offensive zone, but the Lightning was unable to make anything of the opportunity.

As the penalty to Trevor Moore would come to a close, it would be Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev who would get the call to the box for two minutes for Tripping against Mitch Marner. On the bright side, Sergachev was able to prevent Marner from sinking the puck.

The Lightning wouldn’t emerge from this Penalty Kill with a short-handed goal like they did in their first Penalty Kill of the night, but they were able to keep Toronto out of the back of the net. When all is said and done, this one qualifies as a minor victory.

When the buzzer would sound to end the second period, the Lightning and Maple Leafs would be tied at one goal apiece. The Leafs picked up a little ground in the shots on goal department, outshooting the Bolts 8-9 in -the second period for a two-period total of 20-18 in favor of the Bolts.

In the starkest contrast from the first period, the Lightning would turn the tables in the faceoff circle. As opposed to the 38-62 the Bolts had in the first period, the Lightning dominated the faceoff circle making things 60-40 through forty minutes of play.

Early in the third period, Lightning forward Tyler Johnson showed everyone what dedication really is. Johnson made his way into the zone with the puck only to get tripped up and fall to the ice. Despite being face down on the ice, Johnson still tried to make a play. Nothing came from it, but Johnson definitely gets points for effort.

A little later in the period, Lightning forward Brayden Point would work extra hard in an attempt to pick up his 42nd goal of the season, but Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen would make the stop. It’s hard to believe that shot didn’t cross the line, but alas, Andersen held the line.

As the period pressed on, it began to look as if this game was destined to head to overtime. Thankfully, the Lightning was having none of this. At 14:12 in the third period, Alex Killorn would pick up his 18th goal of the season to take the lead for the Bolts. The assists on Killorn’s goal would go to Stamkos and Sergachev.

The Toronto Maple Leafs knew they had to do something if they wanted to push an overtime period. With 2:31 left in the third period, the Leafs would pull Andersen to get an extra skater on the ice. This is always a double-edged sword. Sure, you get an extra skater on the ice, but you also have an undefended net.

Unfortunately for the Maple Leafs, the latter ended up being the case. Less than a minute left in the period and Nikita Kucherov picked up his 40th goal of the season to extend the Lightning’s lead over the Leafs to two goals and essentially put the nail in the coffin of tonight’s game.

Kucherov’s third-period goal gives the Lightning their third 40-goal scorer this season. To say the Lightning has played extraordinarily this season may very well be the understatement of the millennium. Their depth is incredible and this is going to make them a real threat in the postseason.

When the buzzer sounded to end the third period of play, the Tampa Bay Lightning would defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1. Killorn’s goal in the second period would be the deciding goal in tonight’s contest.

Two Lightning players had multi-point nights in tonight’s encounter with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Steven Stamkos ended the game with a goal and an assist and Ryan McDonagh picked up two assists against the Maple Leafs.

Final
Tampa Bay Lightning
3
Toronto Maple Leafs
1

While some would argue the last two games of the season don’t matter very much, we would like to respectfully disagree. Sure, the Lightning has nothing to lose if they were to be defeated in the final two games of the season. At the same time, no one wants to watch as their team limps into the postseason.

The Lightning is now just one game away from tying the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for the most single-season wins. Now, the Bolts make their way to the TD Garden in Boston where they will do battle with the Boston Bruins on Saturday in the final game of the 2018-19 season.

The Bolts currently control the season series over the Bruins, having brought home victories in two of the three contests these two teams have had this season. Saturday afternoon’s game will either seal the season series for the Bolts or split the series right down the middle.

It’s hard to believe the season is about to come to a close. It seems like only yesterday when the Lightning was rolling into the Amalie Arena for the Home Opener. In less than a week, everything starts anew. The Bolts will head back to the Amalie Arena on Wednesday to kick off the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Before that, the Lightning has one final challenge, the Boston Bruins. The puck is scheduled to drop at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time. When the Bolts take the ice in Boston, one journey will come to an end. When the final buzzer sounds, another journey will begin.

It’s been a tremendous, record-setting season for the Tampa Bay Lightning. We don’t know about you, but we are anxious to see what the postseason has in store for the Boys in Blue.