After Tuesday’s Toronto’s brutal beat down at the hands of the Florida Panthers, which saw both the Lightning and the Islanders pass them in the standings, it was absolutely critical that the Leafs come out and find a way to win in Tampa tonight. Much has been made of late of the lack of secondary scoring, and a little of that would surely go a long way towards beating the Lightning.
It was one of the duller first periods in recent memory, with really only two highlights to speak of. The first came just over four minutes in off a faceoff in the Tampa zone. The Leafs gained possession of the puck out behind the net, as Leo Komarov zipped a pass out Connor Brown all alone in the slot. Brown, who has been unlucky as of late, ripped a shot, and was absolutely robbed by Andrei Vasilevsky. Brown continues to be snakebit. The second highlight of the period came when Tyler Bozak won a faceoff from the right wing dot back to Roman Polak, who blasted one from the point. Vasilevsky got a piece of it, but not enough as it trickled through for Polak’s fourth goal of the year, giving the Leafs a 1-0 lead that they’d carry into the first intermission. Secondary scoring indeed.
A much more entertaining period, both teams registered 14 shots, however the Leafs found the twine 4 times. It started less than three minutes in when Morgan Rielly took a shot through traffic that found it’s way on net and again trickled through Vasilevsky, making it 2-0. It was Rielly’s fifth goal of the season. 15 seconds later, Matt Hunwick blasted a shot from the point, which found iron, and then found Matt Martin’s stick out front, as Martin was able to jam home the rebound to continue the secondary scoring storyline by adding his fifth of the year to make it 3-0 Leafs. Minutes later, on the powerplay, Connor Brown finally got off the snide, taking a Leo Komarov feed out front to make it 4-0. William Nylander drew the secondary assist on this goal, his 50th point of the season, making it all three top prospects that have recorded that number this year. 9 minutes later JvR would take a feed from Morgan Rielly and buried in past Peter Budaj, who had come in for Vasilevsky after the 4th goal, to make it 5-0 Leafs after two Periods.
As is often the case late in blowout games, not much happened in the third period of this one. Tampa received three consecutive power plays early in the period, but the Leafs penalty kill and Freddie Andersen stood tall, shutting down the Lightning, who admittedly are without some firepower with Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Vladimir Namestikov and Ryan Callahan all missing from the lineup. The Leafs would continue to defend throughout the period, not really generating much in the way of offense, but also not really needing to as they held on for a 5-0 win, leapfrogging the Lightning and Islanders back into the second Wild Card spot by a point as the Islanders fell to Winnipeg. The Leafs are back in action Saturday when they host the Chicago Blackhawks.
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MATT MARTIN – Post Game