The Tampa Bay Lightning notched another win against the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 at ScotiaBank Arena Thursday night. Despite having half of their top six out due to injury, the Bolts put forth another gritty effort to remain perfect on their road trip. Tampa Bay was lead by the line of Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat, and Taylor Raddysh who scored a combined nine points. In addition to pulling into a three-way tie for first, the win also marked head coach Jon Cooper’s 400th career win.
Up and Down Start.
Things didn’t get off to a great start for the Lightning. Just a 1:31 into the game Raddysh was called for tripping which gave one of the league’s best powerplay the chance to go to work. Although the initial pass was guarded well the puck came right to Ondrej Kase. Kase was able to flip the puck over Andrei Vasilevskiy to give the Leafs a 1-0 lead. For the next 8 minutes, the game would be controlled by Toronto. The Maple Leafs spent a majority of that time in the Lightning end. On the flip side Tampa Bay could not get anything going. However, that would change at 9:47 of the first. Corey Perry intercepted a pass and skated down the wing. Perry was able to find Pierre Edouard Bellemare who redirected through the five hole to tie the game at one.
The goal seemed to wake Tampa Bay up. They had numerous looks at the net in the following minutes and drew a penalty. Just over a minute into that powerplay Steven Stamkos would fire one in to give the Bolts a 2-1 lead. Although the Lightning continued the push after the Stamkos goal, the Maple Leafs would start to swing the pendulum back late in the first. This would result in Stamkos taking a penalty sending Toronto back to the powerplay. With six seconds to go in the period, William Nylander would fire one past a screened Vasilevskiy to tie the game at two before heading into the locker room.
Bolts Notched Two in Second
Despite giving up a goal with just seconds remaining in the first, the Lightning came out of the locker room unbothered. They continued to play their physical game of hockey as they out hit Toronto 44-25 in the game. Although they were outshot in every period, the Lightning would take full advantage of the opportunities given to them, especially in the second. Off a Toronto turnover Stamkos was able to skate into the zone and develop an odd-man rush. Stamkos found Palat open on the opposite wing who tried to feed it to Raddysh in the slot. However, the back-checking stick of Nylander deflected it through the five-hole of Jack Campbell reestablishing the Bolts’ 1-goal lead.
Five-minutes later the Bolts would strike again. Palat caused a turnover in the half-wall that was picked up by Stamkos. He found an open Raddysh in the slot who snapped it past the glove. This would turn out to be the game-winner and Stamkos second assist on the night.
Despite being down four of their top players, the Lightning would take this one to the finish line. Although they didn’t dominate puck possession, they defended extremely well in front of their own net and didn’t give the Leafs a whole lot of grade-A looks at the net. Toronto’s only goal (and best look) came because the picked hopped out of Vasilevskiy’s gear and right to Kase. However the Lightning would add a Palat empty-netter to seal the deal and notched another two points to tie both Toronto and Florida for the lead in the Atlantic division.
Jon Cooper has been the head coach of the Lightning since 2013 and is in his ninth full season as head coach. He is the longest tenured head coach in the NHL and has won two Stanley Cups, three conference championships, a President’s Trophy and now has notched 400 career wins. In doing so he became the fastest coach to reach 400 wins in NHL history. In his postgame press conference Cooper said “I found that out on the bench today”. He also said “I’m proud to have done it with one team”.
Tampa Bay Lightning will finish out their eight-day road trip in Ottawa. After a Saturday afternoon matinee against the Senators, the Bolts will return home to face the Los Angeles Kings and the Ottawa Senators. Then the Lightning are right back on a road trip through the midwest where they will take on the Avalanche, Knights and Coyotes.
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