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Vasilevskiy returns to old form, Maple Leafs winning streak ends with 4-1 loss to Lightning

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
2 months ago
It took nearly five months to rematch, but last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning for the third of four meetings this season and the first of two in the next two weeks as both teams continue their pursuit of picking up points in the standings with the playoffs around the corner.

First period:

Although these two teams entered last night not having played since early November, there was a lot of energy in the early going from both sides. Tampa Bay’s Michael Eyssimont started the physicality by delivering a big open-ice hit on William Nylander at the offensive blue line, and the Maple Leafs’ fourth line responded with a solid offensive zone shift, with Ryan Reaves hitting everything in sight, getting Scotiabank Arena on its feet early.
Despite Nylander getting rocked in the first couple of minutes and thinking the Lightning were going to control this game from the get-go, the Maple Leafs did a fantastic job keeping the puck in Tampa Bay’s end of the ice for the bulk of the first half of the period. Nylander drew a penalty after being tripped by Brandon Hagel, but the power play drought continued for Toronto despite a couple of solid chances on Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The midway point of the period approached, and the shots in the game were 3-0 Toronto. But after Jake McCabe fumbled the puck at the offensive blue line, the Lightning picked the puck up and attacked the Maple Leafs’ zone. Max Domi slid, trying to break up any potential pass, but took a tripping penalty. With a delayed penalty, Vasilevskiy went to the bench for the extra attacker, and Victor Hedman fired his team’s first shot of the game from a distance that beat Joseph Woll for the 1-0 lead.
Although the home team had a pretty good start, limiting Tampa Bay from offensive zone time and shots, one little mistake from Toronto resulted in a goal for the Lightning and not even two minutes after Hedman’s goal, TJ Brodie was sent to the box for slashing, giving the Lightning a real power play this time. Fortunately, the penalty kill did their job and didn’t give the road team much to work with. David Kampf had a short-handed chance, but his shot from the right face-off dot from Vasilevskiy was easy for the netminder to read, keeping the score 1-0.
Three minutes after successfully killing off Brodie’s minor penalty for slashing, Bobby McMann was whistled for tripping after being slightly aggressive on the forecheck. That trip was the second time he had tripped an opposing player like that. Similarly to the first penalty kill, Toronto didn’t give the Lightning anything. They clogged up the neutral zone, denying entrance. McMann returned to the ice after finishing his two minutes in the penalty box, and the game resumed at five-on-five.
There were three power plays in the first period – two for Tampa Bay and one for Toronto – but no one could find the back of the net. That was until Luke Glendening got two minutes for interference, seconds after their power play expired, sending Toronto back to the man advantage. Within seconds of the drop of the puck, John Tavares won it cleanly to Morgan Rielly, who fed Auston Matthews a one-timer, and the 62-goal man blasted his 63rd goal of the season past Vasilevskiy, tying the game at one with 1:00 to play.
Seconds after Matthews evened the game up at one, the fourth line went to work in the Lightning zone and almost came away with another goal, but Reaves rebound shot went wide of the open net. The puck worked its way back to the front of the net, and Reaves tried to jam it in, but Vasilevskiy kept it out, and a scrum ensued as three Lightning players went after Reaves.
Toronto entered the first intermission tied 1-1, outshooting Tampa Bay 11-4.

Second period:

After getting on the board with a late power play in the first period, Toronto went back on the man advantage after Hagel was whistled for tripping Matthews 23 seconds into the middle frame. Unfortunately, they couldn’t replicate the Matthews goal, and the Lightning killed off Hagel’s penalty, keeping things tied at one. The successful penalty kill must’ve given Tampa Bay some momentum because they got out to an early 5-1 shot advantage over Toronto, which included a goal from their top guys after Sheldon Keefe decided to test his fourth line with consecutive defensive zone shifts against Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov. It went how you’d think it would go. Kucherov to Duclair to Point, and he undressed Woll in tight for his 43rd goal of the season, restoring their one-goal lead 2:54 into the second period.
Things didn’t get better for the home team. They looked more leaky in the neutral and defensive zone compared to the first 20 minutes, and after a poor pinch from McCabe, Steven Stamkos was sprung on a 2-on-1. He faked the pass, elected to shoot, and beat Woll along the ice for his 32nd goal of the season. That was the third goal Woll had allowed on just 13 shots.
After the Stamkos goal, Tampa Bay had already doubled their shots from the previous period, and it was evident the first 20 minutes were behind them. Luckily, after being on the ice for the second goal, the fourth line drew a penalty in the neutral zone after Glendening returned to the box after tripping Reaves. Toronto generated a handful of looks on Vasilevskiy but had no answer for the former Vezina winner. Both teams traded chances as the period went on. Woll had to make a couple of big cross-crease saves, and Vasilevskiy continued to look like his old self, robbing every Maple Leaf that had a scoring chance.
Toronto entered the second intermission down 3-1 despite outshooting Tampa Bay 25-13.

Third period:

Being down by multiple goals to the Lightning isn’t new for the Maple Leafs. Whether it was last year’s playoffs or the first two meetings of the season this year, Toronto has found ways to overcome deficits against their division rivals. What better way to spark a potential comeback than dropping the gloves? Roughly three minutes into the final period, Ryan Reaves and Tanner Jeannot dropped the gloves and danced at center ice in front of the fans at Scotiabank Arena.
Usually, when someone drops the gloves and yells in the direction of his bench, he fights in hopes of giving his team some juice and momentum. Unfortunately, the players on the Toronto bench had nothing in the final period. They had chances, yes. But they looked different from the first 40 minutes to the last 20 minutes, and Tampa Bay played a solid road third period to come away with their eventual win. Nick Paul scored his 20th goal of the season in transition after Conor Timmins was knocked off the puck in the offensive zone, and after Paul made it 4-1 with six minutes left, this game was all but over for Toronto, whose three-game losing streak came to an end.
The Maple Leafs managed just four shots on Vasilevskiy in the third period. They had numerous chances throughout the first two periods, but the two-time Stanley Cup champion reminded everybody he is still one of the best goalies in the league despite a down year.

Who stood out:

There were two games played last night at Scotiabank Arena. The Toronto Maple Leafs played one for 40 minutes and played an entirely different one in the final 20 minutes.
Although their winning streak came to an end, and they couldn’t clinch a playoff spot, Auston Matthews extended his point streak to nine games with his 63rd goal of the season (eight goals and nine assists), putting him closer to Alex Ovechkin’s salary cap era record for goals in a season (65) and ultimately 70, which would make him the first player since 1992-93 to reach that milestone. He needs just seven goals in the final seven games to do so.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game on Saturday night when they head to the Bell Centre to take on the Montreal Canadiens. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
(Stats from hockey-reference.com)

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