In their second meeting of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-3. It was a battle between two hot teams as both entered the game with a 7-2-1 record over their past ten games. The Lightning also entered the game on a four game winning streak, and 3-0-0 on their five game road trip that will wrap up on Saturday with a 1pm matinee against the Ottawa Senators.
Before the game, news came out that Anthony Cirelli would not play, and is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. During Tuesday night’s game in Montreal, there were a couple of plays where Cirelli appeared to be banged up. He was able to finish the game, but it looks like he’ll miss some time now. Erik Cernak also remained out for the game as he recovers from a lower-body injury. With Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov out for another month, and Cirelli out of the game, the Lightning are missing three of their top six forwards from the beginning of the season. With Cirelli out, newly acquired off waivers Riley Nash made his Lightning debut and Gabriel Fortier will remained in the line-up.
In Toronto, the Lightning faced a big test, playing against one of the best teams in the NHL this season, and a Maple Leafs team that has been playing better defense than in year’s past.
The lines and pairings for the Lightning to start the game were as follows:
Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Taylor Raddysh
Alex Killorn - Ross Colton - Mathieu Joseph
Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Scorey Perry
Gabriel Fortier - Riley Nash - Boris Katchouk
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Zach Bogosian
Mikhail Sergachev - Cal Foote
Andrei Vasilevskiy in net with Brian Elliott backing him up.
Analytics from NaturalStatTrick.com and are 5v5 Score and Venue Adjusted unless otherwise noted.
The Lightning started off the game with a sluggish first few shifts and then took the first penalty of the game when Taylor Raddysh got his stick into the feet of Morgan Rielly and was whistled for tripping. The Maple Leafs went to work very quickly and a loose puck in front was roofed over Vasilevskiy’s shoulder to take a 1-0 lead for the Maple Leafs early in the first period.
After allowing the first goal, the Lightning were not able to turn things around for a while. They struggled to exit the zone and enter the offensive zone with control of the puck. Down on the shot clock 9-2, the Lightning managed to get onto the board. Corey Perry intercepted a pass at his own blue line and went on the rush with Pat Maroon and Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare. He sauced the puck into the slot and Bellemare put his stick on it and past Jack Campbell to tie the game up at 1-1.
Bellemare goal assisted by Perry.
The Lightning seemed to get a little life after the goal. Raddysh had a one-timer chance that just missed the net wide. Victor Hedman also nearly had a shot from the slot, but the pass handcuffed him. The Lightning drew a slashing call on the play and went to their first power play of the game. The best chance early in the power play came from a Raddysh one-timer in the slot and an Alex Killorn chance on the rebound. The Lightning cashed in on the power play shortly after when a Maple Leafs clearing attempt was deflected up into the air and landed at the top of the circles. Steven Stamkos looked surprised that the puck was there for him. He shrugged, wound up, and blasted the puck past Campbell for the 2-1 lead.
Stamkos power play goal, unassisted.
The Lightning finished out the first period with a penalty kill. Steven Stamkos went to the box for cross checking with just under a minute to go in the period. The Maple Leafs converted on the power play with 6.4 seconds left in the period on a shot by William Nylander from the point through a screen. 2-2 tied game.
The second period started off much better than the first period did for the Lightning.
Steven Stamkos intercepted a pass in the neutral zone giving him a three-on-one rush with Taylor Raddysh and Ondrej Palat. Stamkos feathered a saucer pass past the defender and made it to Palat on the far left wing. Palat tried to play the puck back to the middle for Raddysh to tap the puck in on the back side, but instead it bounced off Nylander’s skate and went in past Campbell to put the Lightning back up 3-2.
Palat goal assisted by Stamkos.
It took until six minutes into the period for the Maple Leafs to get their first shot attempt, a shot on goal from the point. That shot would mark when the Maple Leafs began to tilt the ice back in the other direction and put the Lightning back on their heels.
Despite the added pressure, the Lightning added to their lead. A misfired pass by the Lightning almost went for icing, but Stamkos was able to beat it out, though he didn’t recover the puck. Palat then pressured the defense along the half-wall knocking the puck loose for Stamkos. Stamkos picked it up and sauced it back to the middle for Raddysh who whistled the puck into the top corner on the far side for a 4-2 Lightning lead.
Raddysh goal assisted by Palat and Stamkos.
This felt like a period where the Lightning were lucky to win it 2-0 instead of the other way around. The last two-thirds of the period were dominated by the Maple Leafs. They once again took control of the puck and rarely relinquished it to the Lightning. The Lightning were able to take advantage of a couple of mistakes to get the 4-2 lead, but it took Andrei Vasilevskiy standing tall to maintain that lead.
The Lightning got an early power play in the third period when Mathieu Joseph was tripped in the corner of the offensive zone. The Lightning’s power play was... not great... They allowed a shorthanded breakaway to Nylander with the shot going just wide of the net. The only chance that came from the Lightning was Corey Perry in the slot. The puck came out of a scrum along the boards to Perry, but it was a telegraphed one-timer that Campbell was able to square up to and stop.
The Maple Leafs pulled within one near the half way mark of the third period. The Lightning were getting run around in their own zone when the puck made it’s way back to the point for Jake Muzzin. He took the shot, and Vasilevskiy came out to challenge him and stopped the puck. Vasilevskiy thought he had the puck trapped, but it dropped beside his pad where Ondrej Kase was able to pick up the puck and tuck it into the net to cut the Lightning’s lead to 4-3.
The Lightning soon after got another chance on the power play. Bellemare worked his way down the wall through the neutral zone and drew a hooking call to give the Lightning the opportunity. The Lightning generated a couple of chances with the first unit, but were not able to convert on the power play.
Down the stretch, the Maple Leafs continued to push for the tying goal. The Lightning were able to hold them back though and the Maple Leafs pulled Jack Campbell with just under two minutes left in the third period for the extra attacker. The Lightning defended the 6-on-5 situation well, getting a couple of clears including one that would have gone in the net if Toronto didn’t make it back in time to stop the puck.
The Lightning sealed off the game with an empty net goal scored by Palat. Alex Killorn worked the puck out of the zone and made his way down the boards through the neutral zone and into the Maple Leafs zone. With two defenders on him, he was able to turn back up ice and pass the puck to Stamkos. Stamkos had a clear lane to the net, but took the unselfish approach to pass it to Palat right at the net for the easy tap in for his second goal of the game to put the Lightning up 5-3 for the final margin of victory.
Palat empty net goal assisted by Stamkos and Killorn.
This was a game that the Lightning probably didn’t deserve to win. They finished the game with a 44% CF percentage as the Maple Leafs controlled long stretches of play in all three periods, though the Lightning were able to hold back the Leafs in the third period and did a better job with the puck in the last twenty minutes. The Lightning also ended up with just 40.14% of the xGF share for the game.
The two power plays in the third period actually ended up being more of a time killer as the Lightning didn’t generate much, but it did eat into the time that the Maple Leafs had to make up the two-goal deficit. The Lightning did give back the one goal in the third period, but held firm after that and finished the game off well.
The Lightning have managed very well through injuries this season. They’ve been missing Nikita Kucherov for most of the season. They’ve lost the services of Brayden Point for a while now. And both will be out for about another month. They’ve also had to deal with not having Zach Bogosian and Erik Cernak for long stretches during this season as well. Now, they’re looking at dealing with Anthony Cirelli missing some time.
The depth players have had to step up and be big time players for the Lightning with so many of their top players missing. Especially offensively. The School Bus Line has become a very productive third line. The Kids, Ross Colton, Raddysh, and Boris Katchouk have also started to take off the last week or so. The coaching staff initially resisted breaking up that line, instead having Alex Barre-Boulet and Gabriel Fortier play up in the top six after the injuries to Point and when Mathieu Joseph missed a few games.
This game was different though with Raddysh and Colton being promoted to the first and second line respectively. Raddysh finished out the game with a goal and an assist. Colton didn’t get on the scoresheet, but played 16:45 in the game. From the way Cooper talked about Cirelli earlier in the day, it sounds like these lines could be here to stay for a little bit.
One bit of good to come out of this game is that Jon Cooper won his 400th career NHL game and is the fastest coach in NHL history to make it to 400 wins. Stamkos with his four points is also just two points away from 900 in his career.
The Lightning will finish out this road trip and try for a 5-0-0 sweep of it with a 1:00 PM Eastern Time matinee game on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.