March 19 2014 08:02PM
The Toronto Maple Leafs really needed a better game tonight, after a deflating loss against the Detroit Red Wings 24 hours prior. They needed more from their top line, and they ended up playing pretty well. They needed James Reimer to play at least OK, and outside of the first minute, I think he accomplished that. Lastly, they needed the defence to not make the lapses in judgement it made the night before, but that part just didn't happen. They let Steven Stamkos run rampant, and that was enough to deliver a 5-3 loss at the Air Canada Centre.
Tampa Bay was first to strike, and boy, did they work fast. Just fifty nine seconds in, Radko Gudas threw a wrister from the point on net immediately after a faceoff, and thanks to a mix of traffic and James Reimer's ill preparation, found it's way to the back of the net. The Bolts' lead didn't last very long, though. Phil Kessel scored his 35th of the year after a near perfect pump fake by Carl Gunnarsson turned into a one timer setup in front of the net. Shortly after, a cycle instigated by David Clarkson (!!) lead to a Tim Gleason slap-pass, that Nikolai Kulemin tipped through Ben Bishop's five hole to give the Leafs the lead.
And then, Steven Stamkos happened. After Clarkson took an interference penalty, the Leafs chased the puck a lot on the penalty kill, leaving the best sniper in the National Hockey league wide open for a one timer. Two minutes later, the Leafs left Stamkos on his own again, directly in front of the net.
The second period was an opportunity to recollect and not make this mistake again, but as we all know, things aren't so simple, as Stamkos completed his hat trick six minutes into the period. Clarkson tried to shake things up a few minutes later, dropping BJ Crombeen early into a fight, while also taking a holding call in the process.Tampa continued to pour it on, but James Reimer kept the Bolts grounded for the remainder of the period.
Toronto showed flashes of brilliance late in the third period. Jake Gardiner scored his fifth goal in seven games, on an individual effort that saw him lap around the Tampa Bay net and fire a wrist shot past Ben Bishop. Peter Holland almost tied the game almost immediately afterwards, but was met on the right side by Bishop to keep the Leafs trailing.
The Lightning widened the gap on a controversial powerplay goal. Seconds after getting away with interference on Tim Gleason, Tyler Johnson headed to the front of the net and tapped in his 22nd goal of the season. Toronto poured it on in the final minutes, but couldn't get any closer and the game was slowly crawling to an end, but not before a fan ran onto the ice:
Anyway. The clock hit eventually zero and everybody went home.
Why The Leafs Lost
Steven Stamkos is really good at hockey. You should probably try to stop him from scoring goals. The Leafs did not do that, at all, and unsurprisingly, Stamkos scored on his first three shots. Next time, they should probably try to to defend the most prolific scorer of the past half decade.
I think it's only fair that this one goes to Paul Ranger tonight. Alex Killhorn hit him pretty badly at the end of the first period, and he had to be taken off on a stretcher. The good news is that he's stable and alert, and we're all hoping for the best in his recovery.