Faced with the possibility of heading to Toronto down 3-1 in their series, the Tampa Bay Lightning came out fast and strong on their way to a 7-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ross Colton scored twice while Steven Stamkos, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Corey Perry, Pat Maroon, and Ondrej Palat also found the back of the net. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 22 of 25 as he picked up yet another win following a loss in the postseason.
On the other side of the ice, William Nylander scored twice while Jake Muzzin added a late goal to account for the Leafs offense. Jack Campbell started the game, but did not finish it after making just 11 saves on 16 shots. Erik Kallgren did his job in relief, stopping all 10 shots he faced.
Slow starts have been a hurdle for the Lightning all series (and season long). That wasn’t the case on Sunday night as the Lightning had the jump from the opening face-off. On the first shift Ross Colton set the pace with two big hits. That set the stage for the top line and they didn’t disappoint the home crowd as Steven Stamkos opened the scoring with his first goal of the series.
Steven Stamkos (Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman) 1-0 Lightning
The Lightning kept the pressure on, forcing bad clears from the Leafs and keeping the puck in the zone with agressive reads by the defense. The pressure led to goal number two as Jack Campbell tried to deflect a pass from behind his net, but he mishandled it and sent it straight to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare who slotted it home.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (unassisted) 2-0 Lightning
Up two, it was Pat Maroon using his hands for something other than fighting or slashing. With some space (and the entire arena assuming he’s going to pass to Brayden Point) he cut in front of Campbell and tapped home his own rebound. Credit to the Toronto netminder for getting his skate on the first shot.
Pat Maroon (Mikhail Sergachev) 3-0 Lightning
The Maple Leafs started to find their legs a bit as the period wore on. They were able to keep the puck in the Lightning zone for long stretches at the time and managed to find a couple of good looks, the most notable from Auston Matthews who rung one off the crossbar on a backhand.
The Lightning also survived a shorthanded attempt when Erik Cernak was called for a trip. A “trip” by Nick Paul offset a late slash by Ondrej Kase which negated a potential Lightning power play and sent the teams to intermission at four skaters a piece.
One strong period isn’t enough in the playoffs and the Lightning need to start stringing them together in order to have a shot in the series. They also need to continue to get scoring from all four of their lines. Enter Ross Colton. The kid just knows how to score. Cal Foote started things by eating a hit at center ice to get the puck moving in the right direction.
Ross Colton (Brandon Hagel, Cal Foote) 4-0 Lightning
Following the goal, the march to the penalty box began (the teams combined for 11 power plays on the night). It was Toronto with the early infractions, as John Tavares was sent off for hooking and David Kampf just nine seconds later when he tossed the puck into the crowd. The Lightning were patient with the two-skater advantage and eventually passed the puck into the net with Corey Perry finishing off a nice set up from Nikita Kucherov.
Corey Perry (Nikita Kucherov, Braydon Point) Power Play, 5-0 Lightning
After allowing five goals, Jack Campbell’s night was over. Erik Kallgren entered the game and was solid for the rest of the period, stopping all three shots he faced, including an absolute bullet from Brayden Point on the power play.
With a five-goal lead and twenty minutes to play, the Lightning needed to continue to pressure the Leafs, not get goaded into penalties and try to finish strong. Early on they failed on one of those goals when Mikhail Sergachev threw an extra punch well after a goal mouth scrum was breaking up. On the ensuing power play, William Nylander tipped a shot past Vasilevskiy to break up the shutout.
William Nylander (Auston Matthews, Morgan Reilly) Power Play, 5-1 Lightning
The Lightning bounced back after the goal as they forced the puck into the Toronto zone and made them work to get it out. The goal at this point was to bleed out the clock as much as possible. Stay sound defensively and take advantage if an opportunity presented itself. For the Leafs, they were just looking for some positives to build on and they got that when Nylander recorded his second goal of the evening with eight minutes to go in the game when he ripped home a one-timer off of a rush with John Tavares.
William Nylander (John Tavares, ) 5-2 Lightning
Sheldon Keefe pulled Kallgren with just under six minute to go for the extra skater. They found some pressure early, but then off of a face-off Nylander bobbled the puck at the blueline and it led to a turnover. Ondrej Palat pounced on it and found an opening to fire the puck into the empty net.
Ondrej Palat (unassisted) Empty Net, 6-2 Lightning
The scoring wasn’t over. Just as Paul Porter finished announcing the goal Jake Muzzin somehow managed to get his shot from the blueline past a four-man screen in front of Vasilevskiy to make it 6-3.
Jake Muzzin (T.J. Brodie, Colin Blackwell) 6-3 Lightning
Toronto once again sent Kallgren to the bench in lieu of the extra attacker. Despite some tense moments, the Lightning eventually controlled the puck and Ross Colton raced down an errent pass and massaged the puck into the empty net for his second goal of the game.
Ross Colton (Brandon Hagel, Ryan McDonagh) Empty Net, 7-3 Lightning
The game ended with the typical pushing and shoving that these types of games generally garner. The Lightning will take it, along with the victory. The series, now essentially a best of three, heads back to Toronto.