Tampa Bay Lightning send message to Toronto Maple Leafs
By Neil Becker
The back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning sent a message to their likely first-round playoff opponents the Toronto Maple Leafs.
On Thursday night at Amalie Arena, it was a message-sending game as the Lightning’s offense was in full overdrive as they defeated the Leafs by an 8-1 score.
This was a penalty-filled game being played between two teams who clearly don’t like one another.
The Leafs, who for a third straight game were playing without star forward Auston Matthews could have with a win clinched second place in the Atlantic Division which of course brings home-ice advantage. Currently, the Leafs have four games left and are six points ahead of Tampa who they will more than likely be playing in about 10 days from now in the opening round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Following a scoreless first period, Tampa Bay took control in the second as they outshot Toronto by a 16-11 count and scored four straight goals to take a commanding 4-0 lead.
Starting things off was Lightning forward Alex Killorn who at the 3:54 mark scored his first of two when he deflected the puck past Leafs goalie Erik Kallgren for his 21st goal of the year. Ross Colton, who last year scored the Stanley Cup winning goal made it 2-0 when at 11:37, he also scored his first of two, which was his 20th goal of the season.
The third goal was historic in Tampa Bay franchise history as it came on the power play on a one-timer from captain Steve Stamkos which made him the all-time Tampa Bay franchise leader in points with 954. Stamkos, who scored what was his 34th goal of the year, passed his one-time teammate and current Montreal Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis.
With just under five minutes remaining in the second Tampa Bay got a second power-play goal which came from forward Nikita Kucherov with his 20th goal to make it a 4-0 game after 40 minutes of regulation.
Among the many penalties called in the second was a fight between Maple Leafs Wayne Simmonds and Bolts Pat Maroon. Late in the game, they would once again get together and end up receiving 10- minute misconducts.
Tampa continued to press in the third and less than five minutes in were rewarded with two more goals from forwards Ondrej Palat with his 17th and Killorn with his second and 25th of the season which came on the power play for a 6-0 lead.
Toronto would finally break Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy’s bid for a shutout when on the power play at the 7:45 mark forward Ilya Mikheyev’s shot trickled in glove side for what was his 19th goal.
Tampa Bay finished the game with an exclamation mark as they added two more goals starting at 8:50 from Colton with his second of the game and 21st of the year followed by Maroon who with a little under six minutes remaining rounded the scoring with his 10th goal.
It’s hard to say exactly what to make of the final score as the Leafs were playing not only without Matthews but also minus defenceman Jake Muzzin and starting goalie Jack Campbell.
Judging from the fights and scrums along with trash talk it’s safe to say that if they do end up playing one another, and it’s almost a certainty, that it would be a great opening-round series.
The Leafs should have Campbell in net on Saturday when the Leafs are in Sunrise for a 7 p.m. starting faceoff against the Atlantic Division-leading Florida Panthers.
3:54 Alex Killorn (24) 0 – 1
Erik Cernak (11), Brandon Hagel (17)
11:37 Ross Colton (20) 0 – 2
Nick Paul (14), Corey Perry (20)
12:38 PPG – Steve Stamkos (34) 0 – 3
Nikita Kucherov (34), Victor Hedman (55)
15:07 PPG- Nikita Kucherov (20) 0 – 4
Corey Perry (21), Alex Killorn (33)
1:12 Ondrej Palat (17) 0 – 5
Mikhail Sergachev (30), Steve Stamkos (55)
4:33 PPG- Alex Killorn (25) 0 – 6
Steve Stamkos (56), Victor Hedman (56)
7:45 PPG- Ilya Mikheyev (19) 1 – 6
Jason Spezza (12), Mark Giordano (26)
8:50 Ross Colton (21) 1 – 7
Ondrej Palat (26), Ryan McDonagh (20)
14:11 Pat Maroon (10) 1 – 8
Ondrej Palat (27), Ross Colton (17)