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Stamkos honored, Cirelli return lead to Lightning Win

Captain Steven Stamkos was honored as the first Lightning player to score 1000 points all with the team. Anthony Cirelli made his season debut tonight as the Tampa Bay Lightning faced division rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs at Amalie Arena. Lightning have won seven of their last 10. Toronto sneers at that by winning eight of their last 10. The Leafs are six points ahead of the Lightning in the standings but Tampa has two games in hand. Will the Stamkos honor energize the home crowd? Will the Cirelli return help the team? This is the first of six home games, the longest home stretch this season. What will make the difference by the end of this game?

Cirelli return from off-season shoulder surgery. To make room for him on the roster and cap-wise, the team assigned forward Cole Koepke to Syracuse. After clearing waivers, defenseman Phil Myers was re-assigned to Syracuse as well. To add to this boost, the joint was rocking during the ceremony honoring Stamkos and his 1000th NHL point. Would this be for the benefit of the Lightning?

Looking at both teams it’s seems a role reversal of the last few years. The offensive juggernaut this season is the scoring at 3.48 goals a game, sixth best in the league. The Leafs are smack dab in the middle of the pack of 32 NHL teams at 16th scoring  3.04 goals a  game. Defensively, it is Toronto 3rd best in goals against at 2.48 a game. Meanwhile, the Lightning are middle of the pack at 15th at 3.09 a game.

Let’s Get Ready

This is the first game between these two Atlantic Division behemoths. Their last meeting was in Round 1 of last season’s playoffs. Matt Murray is in net for the Leafs and Andrei Vasilevskiy coming off arguably his best game Thursday night in Philadelphia is in net for Tampa. Cirelli’s return led to the return of the School Bus Line. Corey Perry, Pat Maroon and P.E. Bellemare were reunited and it most likely felt so good. They were definitely getting some offensive zone time.

In fact, through the first half of the first period, the Lightning enjoyed more offensive zone time than the visitors. As the second half of the initial period started, Ian Cole was whistled for a cross check penalty that gave Toronto their first power play opportunity. While the Leafs failed to capitalize on the man advantage, they did control the momentum for now.

Toronto was awarded a second power play chance but were held off the scoreboard. Good to Cirelli getting his minutes on the penalty kill. With just under a minute left in the first, the Lightning got their own power play opportunity. The period ended like we started – a scoreless tie.

Something Has To Give

though the Lightning had a little over a minute on the power  play to start the second period, they couldn’t mount any attack. Both goalies were playing well but Vasilevskiy was in a zone. It  came in handy as the Lightning put the Leafs on the power play yet again. The Lightning held firm and Vasilevskiy was stellar on the kill. After that last penalty was killed, the Lightning were awarded a power ay of their  own. You could smell a goal.

Your nasal senses are strong as the scoreless tie was broken. Unfortunately, it was a short handed goal by Toronto’s Mitch Marner to put the Leafs up 1-0. Could the Lightning come from behind? We didn’t have to wait long for the Tampa response.

The Lightning tied the game a little over two minutes after the Leafs goal. Cirelli and his line mates put in the work in Toronto’s zone and Vlad Namestnikov scored his first goal of the season. Cirelli and Erik Cernak earned the assists.

Then all hell broke loose. Braydon Point appeared to score to go ahead goal but Toronto challenged it as being offside. It was and the goal was taken off the board. Then Toronto scored the go ahead when William Nylander lifted a back hand over Vasilevskiy to give the Leafs a 2-1 lead.

Will Cirelli Return to Lead?

As soon as the third period started, the Lightning went on the  power  play. You could begin smelling a goal…oh never mind. Alas, this time it was a power play goal by Nikita Kucherov to tie the game at two.

Almost immediately, the Leafs put the Lightning on the power play. Before even the thought of smelling a goal is hatched, Ross Colton breaks the tie and give the Lightning a 3-2  lead. The ice has definitely shifted in favor of the home team. Before most of the Amalie faithful could exhale, the Lightning went on another power play. They didn’t score.

As the period went on, the Leafs went on the power play and Marner who scored a shortie, now scored a power play goal to tie the game at three. The intensity level of this game is climbing. To add to the excitement, John Tavares went coast to coast and seemed to have scored the tie-breaker but the Lightning challenged the goal. Upon further review, Tavares in the blue paint made a distinct kicking motion to put the puck in the net. Needless to say, the goal was overturned. Regulation ends with at 3-3 tie.

Overtime Heroics

In  the first minute of overtime, Cirelli and Alex Killorn started as defensive stoppers against the Leafs Auston Matthews and Marner. These two defensive specialists showed their offensive skills. After they created a turnover, they burst out on a 2 on 1 advantage.  Cirelli placed a great tape to tape pass on Killorn’s stick. In the blink of an eye, 34 seconds into the extra 5 minute period, Killorn scored the game winner. Lightning win 4-3. The Cirelli return was a success.

Three Stars of the Game

  1. Alex Killorn – Game winning goal
  2. Anthony Cirelli – Two assists including one on the game winner in his first game back
  3. Mitch Marner – Two goals, one short handed and one on the power play

What’s Next

Tuesday at 7:00 pm, the Detroit Red Wings come to Amalie.

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