After a sloppy first couple of periods, the Maple Leafs held on for a 4-3 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Leafs blew a 2-goal first period lead, as well as a 1-goal lead in the second, but played a solid third period and came out on top. It surely wasn’t the Leafs’ best performance of the season, but it was nice to see them emerge on the right end of a tight scoreline for a change.
The Leafs had at least 30 shots on goal for the 8th straight game, and continue to lead the league in shots on goal per game. Tonight, they were a little more opportunistic and capitalized on more of their chances. “Team” toughness, one of the central tenets of Burke’s gameplan, is finally showing signs of coming to fruition up front over the course of the last few games, as Leaf forwards as a unit are starting to dig in their heels and perform the necessary grunt work to generate quality scoring opportunities.
Niklas Hagman continued his hot streak with 2 more goals, making that 5 in the last 5 games. Matt Stajan scored the go-ahead goal late in the second period, while Nikolai Kulemin opened the scoring in the first.
Some thoughts from the game:
– I thought Tomas Kaberle had one of his weakest peformances of the season. A bad giveaway in his own zone led to Vincent Lecavalier’s goal, and despite the missed offside on Ryan Malone’s goal, I was more upset that Kaberle didn’t take Malone in front of the net.
– Carl Gunnarsson was impressive tonight. He quietly had 3 assists and played a good all-around game. There were a couple of nervous moments for him in the Leafs’ end, but he seems to make the smart, simple play way more often than not. Ron Wilson even had him out there with under a minute to go in the game, as he looks comfortable alongside Francois Beauchemin, who again, looked solid and logged over 28 minutes of ice-time.
– As for Jonas Gustavsson, he made a big early save off of Martin St. Louis, but still doesn’t look as sharp as he did earlier in the season. He kicked a bad angle shot by Stamkos right into the slot on Malone’s goal, but I still lay the blame for that goal on Kaberle.
– It looks like Lee Stempniak‘s play is dipping a little. He had an atrocious giveaway to Ryan Malone on a Leaf power-play. It just seems like he’s not making good decisions with the puck as often.
– Luke Schenn still makes me nervous when he’s on the ice, but he’s getting more ice-time (over 15 minutes tonight) and even took a regular shift with Garnet Exelby in the third period while the Leafs were protecting the lead. Hopefully, tonight’s game will be good for his confidence.
– As for the season debut for Christian Hanson, he looked a little tentative and uncomfortable tonight. However, I’m glad that he’s finishing checks more often than I remember.
Let’s hope the Leafs can keep up this stretch of decent play (6 of a possible 8 points) in Florida against the Panthers on Friday, before a rare Saturday night off.
Follow me on twitter: @SantosDan