Ben Scrivens couldn’t weather the storm, as the Tampa Bay Lightning stunned the Toronto Maple Leafs 4 – 2 on Tuesday night. The Bolts were bolstered by goals from Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn and Matt Carle, while Mikhail Grabovski and James van Riemsdyk responded for the Buds.
1. The Toronto Maple Leafs are 10 – 7 – 0 and I told you last night that the Lightning would offer stiffer competition. Yes, the Leafs were on the second game of a back-to-back, but they didn’t look like a tired team. They controlled much of the play through the first half of the game, but found themselves unable to rely on their goaltender for the first time this month. Yet they were unable to generate many shots or enough offense, and when they fell behind 2-1, couldn’t find the will to claw back into what was a winnable game through the first 45 minutes.
2. Mere minutes after the Leafs TV crew highlights his versatility and use in the faceoff circle (he was 8/10 in the first period, and finished 22/35), Tyler Bozak makes an errant, half-hearted clearing pass that eventually winds up on the stick of Vincent Lecavalier, who buries his sixth goal of the season. Bozak has been very good this season, but he looked overworked tonight.
3. Ben Scrivens shutout streak ended tonight after 154:16 minutes, a pretty impressive feat. Tonight’s performance was less laudable: he allowed 2 goals on his first 6 shots faced, and took an absolutely idiotic tripping penalty, low kicking Tampa forward Richard Panik in the second period. Both the second and third Tampa Bay goal were of the regrettable variety, and he looked rattled thereafter. He was pulled in favour of Jussi Rynnas midway through the third after allowing 4 goals on 13 shots.
4. Keith “Muhammad” Aulie and Mark “Smokin’ Joe” Fraser decided to earn their nicknames and fought each other, which is really only a funny joke when you hear it, and even then it’s not that funny. Nonetheless, it was another pugilistic night for the Leafs, who lead the league in fighting majors with 20, with Brown, Fraser and Kadri all ended up with dropping the gloves. Somewhere, without a tie, Brian Burke is smiling.
5. After barely containing the Lightning in their own zone for half a minute, the Leafs get a couple fortuitous bounces and Mikhail Grabovski buries a rebound to tie the game with three minutes left in the first period. Grabovski’s fourth of the year comes after a Jay McClement clearing pass ricocheted off the right wing stanchion, bounced back to the Leafs D, fooling most of the Bolts skaters. The goal might have been lucky, but it was hard earned for Grabo, who hadn’t scored a goal in 11 contests going back to January 26. Kulemin and MacArthur picked up the assists on the Grabovski goal, and boy it feels good to type that again.
6. Nazem Kadri had very good night individually, creating offense off the rush, and recording 6 shots on the night (and 5 through the first 40 minutes). He still leads the Leafs in scoring, despite minimal minutes and mediocre and worse linemates in MacArthur and Orr, and was probably the best Leaf on the ice tonight. Even with Orr’s vaunted protective abilities, Victor Hedman still managed to take liberties with Kadri, eventually drawing him into a spirited bout.
7. Perhaps due to Kadri’s marker from Phaneuf last night, the Leafs were eager to center pucks from behind the Lightning’s net and into the slot. Whatever the reason, it was an ineffective trick. Indeed, much of the Leafs offensive attempts were a little too cute. They generated their first tally on big fat rebound, and were stymied when they tried to thread needles.
8. The 5’8” Cory Conacher outworks and outmuscles 6’3” defender Korbinian Holzer behind the Leafs net, walks out front and feeds Steven Stamkos, who pots his 10th goal of the season through Scrivens’ wickets. Tampa pulled ahead 2 – 1 and really began to take control of the flow of play after this point. Holzer is still waiver exempt, and it might be time to bring Jake Gardiner back up to the club.
9. If there’s one positive thing to take from the game, it’s the new-and-competent Leafs penalty kill is the real deal. They went 5/6 tonight on the kill, only surrendering a goal after the wheels fell off Ben Scrivens. They’ve killed 25 of their past 27 penalties taken, an unbelievable 92.6% rate. While that rate isn’t sustainable at all, I haven’t been wincing nearly as much when the Leafs go down a man as I was the last 6 seasons.
10. James van Riemsdyk gets his stick on a Phil Kessel try for his team-leading ninth of the season, making it 4 – 2 with just under four minutes left in play. The game seemingly in garbage time, the goal seemed to spur the Leafs on to a level of competence not seen all night. Despite an energetic two and a half minutes playing 6 – 5 that saw Kessel, Grabovski and Kadri all almost bury chances, the Leafs were unable to stage any meaningful comeback.
The club split the sunshine state, remain in the playoff picture and will look to bounce back on Thursday when they take on the reeling Buffalo Sabres.