On Monday night, Tampa Bay began a two-game road trip against the division rival Toronto Maple Leafs.The Lightning have already clinched a playoff berth, and despite being miles ahead of the rest of the league, sought another victory over a division foe. The Maple Leafs, however, reside in third place in the Atlantic Division, fighting to catch up to the blazing hot second-place Bruins.
In their previous match-ups this season, Tampa Bay and Toronto split it 1-1 in eerily similar games. Tampa Bay managed to beat Toronto due to Andrei Vasilevskiy’s incredible 48-saves performance, tying a franchise record. The Maple Leafs defeated the Lightning in nearly the same fashion as Tampa Bay could not get anything through Frederik Andersen. Tonight, however, was a much different night for the Lightning offense.
The Lightning strike first
From the opening moments of the game, Tampa Bay was absolutely buzzing. The Bolts were able to play to their strengths, keeping Toronto either in their own zone or hemmed up along the boards. Tampa Bay’s first period dominance was rewarded in the form of two tip-in goals. Tyler Johnson was the first to find the back of the net when he redirected a shot from Ryan McDonagh.
Anthony Cirelli also scored on a redirect with the primary assist coming from Mikhail Sergachev. The Lightning out-shot the Maple Leafs 14-7 in the first. The only area the Lightning struggled in was a on the power play. Despite owning the best power play unit in the NHL, the Bolts struggled against the Leafs penalty kill unit on their only power play in the first.
The Lightning continue to roll
After a nearly perfect first period, the Lightning continued to dominate Toronto in the second. Tampa Bay scored their third goal of the game only four minutes into the second period. Johnson buried the puck after it deflected off of Andersen’s mask, making it 3-0. Thirty seconds later, the Bolts got some puck luck when a shot from Braydon Coburn bounced off of Ondrej Palat and then Auston Matthews before going into the net. Toronto pulled Andersen after allowing four goals in 25 minutes.
With Garret Sparks in net, the Leafs finally got on the scoreboard when Matthews put on the moves, getting behind Brayden Point and snapping a shot by Vasilevskiy. Now in desperation mode, Toronto started playing more aggressive and forced Tampa Bay into taking a penalty. Erik Cernak was called for interference after bumping into a Toronto forward who was crowding the area in front of the Lightning net. Given a huge opportunity to cut the Lightning lead in half, the Maple Leafs not only failed to capitalize, but also gifted Tampa Bay their fifth goal. The penalty kill unit intercepted a pass and flew into Toronto’s zone. Yanni Gourde controlled the puck while four of Toronto’s skaters went for a line change. With only one Leafs skater on the ice, Cedric Paquette scored to extend the Lightning’s lead to four goals.
Tampa cruises to victory
Beginning the third period with a 5-1 lead after stunning the Maple Leafs and their fans for the first two periods, Tampa Bay played a conservative game in the third, not looking to score on every chance but settling for puck possession and offensive zone time instead. However, even playing a more conservative game, the Lightning still managed to extend their lead. Gourde shot a hard pass towards the slot and Paquette redirected it for his second goal of the night. Toronto ultimately added a late goal with only seconds left to play, leading a 6-2 final in favor of the Bolts. Thirteen Lightning players had a point in one of their most dominant performances of the season.
Our Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Tyler Johnson, 2 goals
2nd Star: Cedric Paquette, 2 goals
3rd Star: Jan Rutta, 2 assists
Tampa Bay travels to Detroit for a match-up on Thursday, March 14 at 7:30 pm EST.
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