Game 20: Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning

The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 7-1 in front of a sell-out crowd of 19,204 at the St. Pete Times Forum Tuesday night.

Tampa Bay was looking to rebound from a particularly poor effort in their last game, a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the New Jersey Devils last Saturday night.

"We came out, we played terrific in the first period. I can't ask more of our team. We came out flying. We executed. We had jump. we were first on the puck. We were shooting. We were doing great." - Lightning head coach Guy BoucherUnfortunately, after things were pretty good for a while, they got considerably worse.

In spite of how the Lightning started the game, the Maple Leafs got on the board right away as Clarke MacArthur scored on Toronto's first visit into the Tampa Bay zone, with the first shot of the game at the :41 mark with assists from Jake Gardiner and Tim Connolly.

The Lightning responded with sustained offensive pressure that kept the puck in the Toronto zone. At 8:38, it paid off when Vincent Lecavalier slammed home a power play goal on a one-timer from the right circle from Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone.

Toronto took the lead back at 17:56 on the front end of a four minute high-sticking double minor on Victor Hedman with a deflected goal scored by Tim Connolly from Nikolai Kulemin and Philppe DuPuis. With the Lightning killing the second half of the Hedman penalty, Pavel Kubina was whistled for interference at 18:44. Toronto made the Lightning pay, extending the lead to 3-1 when Tyler Bozak scored on the five-on-three with assists from Phil Kessel and Tim Connolly.

"We knew we had to stay out of the box. I strongly feel that after the first period the players felt it was unfair to be trailing after such a good period. But I also think they were disappointed in themselves to kind of sabotage the way they were playing. And we carried that into the second period." - BoucherThe second period began with the Lightning needing to kill off the remaining :44 of the Kubina penalty, which they did successfully. Back at full strength, the Lightning continued to press Toronto, spending extended time on the attack and dominating most aspects of play...except for converting scoring chances.

In spite of that, Toronto was able to pad their lead when they scored again at 17:45 on a goal by Joe Colborne from Matt Frattin and John-Michael Liles. The period ended with the Lightning down by a score of 4-1.

"That fourth goal killed us. To me, there's no reason to change our game because it's 3-1. Your five on five game has to stick. But all of a sudden because the score isn't the way we want it, we start running around and make it worse for ourselves and create opportunities to get more bad habits. We have to correct that." - Boucher

The Lightning found themselves in penalty trouble again early in the third. While skating four-on-four, Lightning netminder Dwayne Roloson misplayed the puck behind his own net and Tyler Bozak scored unassisted at 3:07. The teams were still skating four-on-four less than two minutes later when Joffrey Lupul scored with assists from Bozak and Dion Phaneuf to make the score 6-1, chasing Roloson in the process. Mathieu Garon came in, stopping four of the five shots he saw in relief. The Maple Leafs weren't finished, scoring again at 14:28 on a goal by Joey Crabb with assists from Frattin and Gardiner.

The Lightning have now lost four of their last five, including two in a row at home. They will travel to Sunrise, Florida, Friday to take on the Florida Panthers in their next game. At the quarter mark of the season with the next four points on the table against the division leaders, is this a particularly crucial point in the season?

"They're all crucial. If you look at the last game against New Jersey, they're ahead of us. Toronto is ahead of us. Now we're playing Florida. It's not about other teams, it's about us putting our game on the ice and being consistent. And if we are, we're giving ourselves a chance. And right now, very often, we sabotage our own game. We've got to get rid of that." - Boucher"We have a great opportunity to get back at it and play for 60 minutes, which we've been looking for. We're just not as consistent as we want to be. That's something in this league you have to be to be a playoff team. That's something we have to be better at." - Vincent Lecavalier

"We got to play the whole sixty minutes; it’s as simple as that. I don’t have a whole lot of ingredients for you, except we have to play the whole sixty minutes...Part of playing the sixty minutes is doing everything and not taking penalties. I’m not pointing fingers at anybody; we lose as a team, win as a team." - Nate Thompson

"There's always something you can do. How do you eat an elephant? You eat him one bite at a time. I'm certainly not one to get discouraged. I've seen a lot worse things in my life and I've seen a lot worse as a coach. There are solutions and we will find them." - Boucher Game notes:

  • Once again, the Lightning gave up the first goal of the game, the 13th time this season.
  • The seven Toronto goals were the most scored by a Lightning opponent in a game this season, tying the seven the Panthers tallied in the home opener loss on October 17th.
  • Steve Downie was not on the bench during the third period due to an as-yet undisclosed injury.
  • Vincent Lecavalier milestone watch: 449 assists.
  • Martin St. Louis milestone watch: 491 assists, 794 points
  • Since 2006-07, Lecavalier and St. Louis have combined to play in 216 games in which both players registered at least one point in the same game. The only two players in the NHL with more during that span are Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin with 244.
  • Feel free to write your own joke about the Lightning serving up a Thanksgiving turkey in the comment section below. That's what it's there for.
  • The Lightning recognized Sherry Tucker as a Lightning Community Hero during the first period of tonight’s game. Tucker, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will contribute the money to her charity of choice, the Giving Hope Through Faith Foundation.A mother of two, Tucker's son Zachary was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor, just two days before his eighth birthday. In the midst of her son’s battle for his life, Tucker managed to be her child’s primary caregiver, while also providing the required guidance, comfort and love to her family during its most difficult time. He courageously fought off the disease for 10 months, while the family’s strong faith alone sustained them all the way until his untimely death. As a result, Tucker was moved to start a foundation that might offer hope to families battling cancer and somehow honor the memory of her beloved son. The Giving Hope Through Faith Foundation was started in February 2007, and to date, has helped comfort over 200 families in the Tampa Bay area as their loved ones battle the dreaded disease.