Standout performances by Nazem Kadri (2 goals) and Jonathan Bernier (40 saves on 42 shots), and another timely goal late in the third by the top line (JvR’s 21st from Kessel and Bozak), saw the Maple Leafs take the first of four season meetings against the Lightning. The Leafs are 7-1-1 in their last nine, and remain in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with a 28-21-6 record (62 points).
- The Leafs couldn’t take advantage of any of their three powerplays in the first period, despite going up against the fourth worst penalty kill in the League. On the first powerplay, they were really fortunate not to concede an early shorthanded goal against. A Phaneuf pass behind all three forwards followed by a bad Franson pinch at the blueline gave up yet another odd man rush on the powerplay. The Lightning hit a post on the 2 on 1. That pairing has been scary lately for the wrong reasons. They followed it up later in the period, on another powerplay, with a turnover in their own zone which Bernier had to take care of. A PK unit would be smart to test these two, and the Lightning were indeed aggressive in their pressure.
- The Lightning directed five shorthanded shots on net in this game.
- Despite receiving all three of the period’s powerplays the Leafs were outshot 11-8; they spent a spell between the 10:00 and 5:00 mark sending the puck up the boards to the other team repeatedly, but fans have learned to cope with such spells by now.
- A couple minutes into the 2nd period, Kadri found some space through the middle of the rink after jumping on a broken play in the neutral zone. He gained the zone and got a friendly deflection off the boot of the Tampa D, fooling big Ben Bishop. Other than that, Bernier was big in the first half of the 2nd period, a frame in which the Leafs were outshot 18-8 overall. Bernier was calmly turning aside pucks as the Leafs D looked scrambly and disorganized.
- Another moment of Kadri brilliance put his team ahead 2-0 half way through the 2nd period. A smart chip in into a good area by Gunnarsson was retrieved by Lupul, who sent a backhand pass into the slot for Kadri. Kadri made a fool out of old enemy Victor Hedman with a gorgeous toe drag and backhand deke finish. That play started with a faceoff win by Kadri in the defensive zone, where he was 7 for 7 tonight (10 for 16 overall).
- That’s six points in eight games for Lupul and nine points in Kadri’s last seven. Great to see these two producing together again.
Since the Lupul-Kadri-Kulemin line was reunited against MTL on Jan 18, Nazem Kadri has 3 goals and 6 assists in those 7 games.
— David Alter (@DavidAlter590) January 29, 2014
- A great chance came off the stick of Holland in slot on the next shift, as his line carried the momentum forward. Unfortunately, any momentum was quickly curtailed by an offensive zone holding penalty by Holland. The Lightning hit two posts after a lot of scrambling by the Leafs PK.
- The Leafs never really got settled after the end of the PK before Rielly misplayed the puck in the corner, leading to the 2-1 goal for the Lightning. Rielly wasn’t ready to receive the pass from Bernier from behind the net, uncomfortably receiving it on his backhand, and the puck escaped between his legs and into Lightning possession in the slot. Rielly needed to identify the danger and keep that puck moving up the boards off his forehand. Gardiner was left alone in front with a couple of Lightning players as Matt Carle took a pass and beat Bernier blocker side high.
- The Leafs went right back to the PK after a hooking infraction by Gunnarsson happened at the same time as an offside whistle. Unless the hook caused the offside it shouldn’t be a penalty. The refs saw it differently, but that looked like the wrong call to me.
- The Lightning hit another post on their ensuing powerplay in a four-shot effort for the Lightning plus a couple of missed chances from point blank range. There is little confidence left in these units anymore and much of the aggressive instinct seems to have waned. This was a PK taking away nothing in terms of passing lanes as the Lightning moved the puck at will.
- In another goal shortly after the expiry of a PK, with Rielly-Gardiner plus the Kadri line on the ice, three Leafs were in corner with B.J. Crombeen but the pass made it out into the slot anyway. A couple of whacks at it later, with no one tied up or knocked down in front, defenceman Mark Barbeiro knocked in the tying goal. The Leafs’ PK did not technically get scored on tonight but it sure put the team on its back foot.
- With just a minute remaining in the second, Kadri had a chance for a hat trick, all in one period, after Lupul won a puck race to the boards against Brewer in the defensive zone (yay) and made another nice little backhand pass to a trailing Kadri inside the offensive zone blueline. Kadri missed wide right with Bishop’s five hole wide open.
- Inexplicably, Gunnarsson decided to stickhandle around his own zone instead of flipping the puck out with a few seconds left on the clock, turning it over and forcing Phaneuf to grab a piece of St. Louis. A dumb play by Gunnarsson put the ailing Leafs PK to work to start the 3rd.
- The Leafs PK was better to start the 3rd, managing to prevent a clean Lightning set up and breaking up entries a couple of times at the blueline.
- Kadri and Lupul were finding each other with regularity in this game. A Lupul centering pass set up Kadri with another prime chance for the hat trick early in the third. These two were on the same wave length all night.
- Phaneuf found Kessel on a stretch pass four minutes in to the 3rd after #81 snuck in behind the line of defense. Kessel saw the fivehole opening but couldn’t hit it, firing wide right.
- This game could’ve gone either way, but some extended first line pressure with 13 minutes to go suggested the Leafs’ big guns were starting to come on strong in search of the game winner.
- After the game tightened up for little bit, Bozak took advantage of a fumbling Radko Gudas, who made a mess of it in his own zone, as #42 won the battle, picked up the turnover, and dropped a pass to Kessel. Kessel found JvR in front for a goal everyone knew went in except the referee behind the net.
- That’s a couple of clutch goals late in the third period in the past two games from one of the best lines in hockey.
- 41 points is JvR’s new career high, but that’s a little misleading due to the lockout-shortened season. He has 39 goals and 73 points in his last 101 games.
- A huge outstretched glove save by Bernier on St. Louis saved the game and put a stamp on a remarkable 40-save effort. That’s Bernier’s fifth win with 40 saves or more.
- It was another good night of solid defensive play for Tim Gleason in 18 minutes of ice time, but unfortunately there seems to be some Final Destination karma coming his way since he got here. He’s taken shots to the ribs, face and groin in the past few games, and a cross check from behind caught him with 2 minutes left as he fell awkwardly; he seemed to hurt his back or shoulder. He was down for a little while before gingerly making his way off the ice. Suddenly this feels like a significant loss if he’s out for any length of time.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Tampa Bay Lighting Boxscore
|James van Riemsdyk||1||0||21:07||1||3||0||0||1||0||1||1||0|
TAMPA BAY STATISTICS
|Ben Bishop (26-7-4)||L||26||23||0.885||58:22|
|Martin St. Louis||0||0||24:29||-2||6||0||1||5||0||0||1||0|