Tonight we have a pivotal match up between the Lightning and the Maple Leafs tonight between two teams neck and neck for the same playoff position.
Full disclosure – I spent more of this period fumbling with streams than I did watching. My apologies for the spotty coverage.
The five minutes of the period certainly set the stage for a wonderful game, as both teams traded dangerous chances.
A ridiculous play finally gets the Leafs on the board halfway through the first. Roman Polak slaps a shot at Vasilevski and it just floats over him into the net. James Van Riemsdyk was there tracking the puck for a baseball goal, but was unable to make contact and it finds its own way across the line for the always-fun Polak goal.
Frederik Andersen is having a very strong game thus far, although the Leafs have mostly controlled the play keeping him from having to stand on his head. Ideal situation maybe.
The period would end with the Leafs up 1-0.
Early in the period the Leafs were showing signs of taking control of the game again, with a strong 2 minutes of puck possession advantage.
Another squeaky one beats Vasilevski as Rielly’s point shot squeezes through his legs to put the Leafs up 2-0.
And, immediately after, Hunwick puts it off the post and Matt Martin fins the rebound to put it in for the 3-0 lead. A great job by Martin to get his stick on the fast-moving puck and beat Vasilevski.
The Leafs continued to control the play through the next few minutes. On some good cycle time, a net front scramble leads to Connor Brown putting another puck past Vasilevski for the 4-0 lead. Vasilevski would be pulled for Peter Budaj at this point.
A Boyle tripping penalty would send the Lightning to the powerplay, giving them a chance to climb back into the game. But they would be unsuccessful in doing so on the score sheet. They were able to generate some momentum though that they carried through most of he remainder of the 2nd.
However, the Leafs would interrupt the Lightning’s success with a point shot that gets blocked in front and lands on Van Riemsdyk’s stick, who fires a beautiful shot post-and-in to put the Leafs up 5-0 with 4 minutes left in the 2nd.
Near the end of the second period, the Leafs would take two consecutive penalties from Zaitsev and Hunwick to give the Lightning their best opportunity on a 5-on-3 powerplay.
One of the penalties would expire, but the second would end with time left on a 5-on-4, but the Leafs leading the Lightning 5-0.
Quickly the Leafs’ penalty kill completed the stint, and the Leafs successfully escape the Lightning’s 5-on-3 advantage.
Some physicality had Kadri taking an extra penalty that sent the Leafs to the penalty kill yet again. And, yet again, they would successfully kill it.
The Lightning were starting to get some chances midway through the 3rd, and showing signs of life, but Andersen continued to stand strong.
The game would end with the Leafs earning a dominant win, 5-0 over the Lightning
No question that the Leafs showed up tonight on a night they really needed to. No one on the Leafs was particularly bad but I thought if anyone didn’t join the domination show the Leafs put on it was Jake Gardiner. A very rough showing for him in his first try at a top pairing role in a while.
My three stars for the night:
- Frederik Andersen (33 save shutout)
- Morgan Rielly (1 goal, 1 assist, 63% CF%)
- Roman Polak (1 goal, 59% CF%)
The Leafs jump back into a playoff spot tonight with this win. It is an absolutely key win for them.
Tune in on Saturday when the Leafs face the Chicago Blackhawks in Toronto. Goodnight, and go Leafs.