On Tuesday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs entered Amalie Arena for the last time this season. Well, at least for the last time in the regular season.
In front of the home crowd, Ondrej Palat (lower body) returned to action for the first time since January 20. The former seventh-round pick was held off the score sheet in his team’s 4-3 win over their Atlantic division rival. During his 26-game absence the Lightning posted 18 wins. Prior to the injury, Palat reached a four-game point streak (1 goal, 4 assists) from January 7 to January 18. Despite being away from the ice for two months, he ranks third on the team among forwards with 42 blocked shots.
Leafs, Lightning exchange rallies
With a large contingent of visiting fans at Amalie Arena, the Maple Leafs put on a show for the first half of the game. Passes were crisp. Chances were taken. And despite playing without their injured super star Auston Matthews (shoulder separation), there was little hesitation in the decisions they made. Tampa Bay did not come out with the same intensity early on.
James Van Riemsdyk scored twice, his 32nd and 33rd goals of the season, within the game’s first 22 minutes. Turnovers in their own zone, soft passes, and miscommunication prevented the Lightning from gathering any momentum.
At its worst point, Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos could not get on the same page during a second-period shift. Stamkos fed the puck to Hedman toward the top of the zone, looking for the defenseman to create something. However, the Swede simply lobbied the puck right back to the Lighting captain — who was not expecting the pass and wasn’t even looking in the direction of his defenseman.
Despite their struggles, and a third Maple Leafs goal — this time off of the stick of Maple Leafs center Zach Hyman — Tampa Bay fought back to take the lead.
Lightning storm back
Less than a minute after Hyman’s goal, Hedman atoned for his earlier mistake and gave the Bolts their first score of the night. Action heated up in the third period when Ryan McDonagh brought the Lightning within a goal just 1:24 into the final frame. His fourth goal of the season was the second of four unanswered goals for Tampa Bay.
Having found the net twice against Edmonton on Sunday, Nikita Kucherov tied the game with goal number 37 of the season. Just as everything was going the way of Toronto in the first period-and-a-half of action, Tampa Bay tightened up the defensive efforts in the later portion of the contest and displayed a sense of urgency that had escaped them during the game’s earlier stages.
The game-winning goal came off of the stick of Alex Killorn. And, as you can image — after trailing by three to a division rival — he was fired up.
— x – Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) March 21, 2018
“We had a play off the face off and one of their guys dropped their stick,” he said after the game. “Gourde got the puck in the corner and gave it to Cirelli and Cirelli found me in the slot. So, Johnny on the spot.”
Milestone for Vasilevskiy
After recording his 41st victory of the year, Andrei Vasilevskiy passed Ben Bishop and now holds the franchise record for wins in a season. After the game, Hedman spoke of his success and maturity this season.
“He still a young kid,” Hedman said. “But he’s got a lot of seasons ahead and he’s proven this year that he’s one of the best in the league … without him we wouldn’t be standing in this situation.”
- Forward Ryan Callahan left the game with an upper-body injury and did not return. The return of Palat is a boost, however, the loss of Callahan for any length of time would hurt.
- The Lightning all-time record for goals in a season is 262 — with their four goals against Toronto, the Bolts now have 258 on the season.
The Lightning travel to Brooklyn to face the New York Islanders on Thursday. The Isle’s are out of playoff contention and are merely playing for a worse draft pick at this point.
- With backs against the wall, Islanders win OT battle to force game 7 June 23, 2021
- Captain Stamkos leads Bolts to game 5 onslaught of Islanders June 21, 2021
- Conn Smythe candidate review: Ultimate team glory, but who’s MVP? June 21, 2021
- Fierce rally falls inches short as Pulock blocks game-tying bid June 19, 2021
- Apples, oranges, and hardware: Comparing Vasilevskiy to the best ever June 19, 2021
- Nassau Coliseum quieted as Lightning take 2-1 series lead over Islanders June 17, 2021
- Kucherov plays setup-man, Bolts bump Islanders to even series June 15, 2021
- Islanders able to capitalize on opportunities and win game 1 June 13, 2021
- Lightning-Islanders Stanley Cup Semifinal Preview June 13, 2021
- Goaltending thrives as Bolts knock out Hurricanes in Game 5 June 8, 2021