This one was closer than the final score might indicate. The Maple Leafs outshot the Lightning, 43-24, in the game. Both teams generated lots of scoring chances - and that total, unlike either the final score or the final shot count, was fairly even. So the biggest difference in the game was this: the Lightning were able to convert on their chances more efficiently than the Leafs. And Ben Bishop, who heroically hung in the game after losing two of his front teeth in the second period, was the major reason why the Leafs weren't able to convert more of their chances.
The first period was a microcosm of that point. Steven Stamkos, who tied a career high with four points, netted a pair of goals. Alex Killorn added another. Meanwhile, Bishop made a handful of tough saves and, just as importantly, didn't allow rebounds. Scoring chances were plentiful on both sides, but the Lightning took a 3-0 lead into the locker room.
The number of chances went down for both teams in the second period. But there were still some opportunities. Bishop stopped Tyler Bozak during a Toronto power play early in the frame and made another fine save later in the period on Peter Holland. On that play, the puck hit Bishop's mask and knocked out his two front teeth. About seven minutes into the period, Frederik Andersen made a sprawling stick save on Victor Hedman. But right after the ensuing faceoff, Hedman converted on a rebound to extend the Lightning lead to 4-0. The Leafs got one goal back before the end of the period when William Nylander finished off a pretty passing sequence during a second Toronto power play.
Toronto amped up the pressure early in the third, including on another power play, but Bishop kept the lead at 4-1. Nikita Kucherov made it 5-1 when he buried a deflected centering feed from Stamkos. The Leafs responded, however, netting two goals in just over a minute.
The Lightning's lead was down to 5-3 with 10 minutes left and the Leafs were buzzing. But Bishop turned aside more Toronto chances and the Lightning killed another penalty, preserving the two-goal edge. Then, with six and a half minutes left, Mitch Marner took a four-minute high-sticking double minor. The Lightning handled the power play beautifully. They didn't just try to run down the clock. Instead, they attacked the net, threw a number of pucks at Andersen and eventually got rewarded. Vladdy Namestinkov put in a rebound of an Anton Stralman shot attempt. That goal came in the first two minutes of the double minor, so the Bolts stayed on the power play for another two minutes. After a failed three-on-two shorthanded rush for the Leafs, the Lightning countered on a three-on-one. Jonathan Drouin finished his shot from the right circle to finally put the game away.
Again, the reason for the win was two-fold. First, the Lightning successfully turned many of their scoring chances into goals. The line of Stamkos, Kucherov and Namestnikov, in particular, had a monster game. The three players combined for four goals and 10 points. Second, thanks to Bishop, the Lightning were able to turn away enough of Toronto's chances to maintain the lead they built.
The Maple Leafs are a team on the rise. Like the Lightning, the Leafs have exciting players capable of making dynamic plays. Toronto is utilizing its speed and skill against everyone, not just the Lightning. Also, the fact that the Leafs were down in the game meant that they heavily pressed the attack in the third period. Still, the Lightning will look to reduce the number of shots and chances allowed when they face Montreal on Thursday.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Namestnikov's third period PPG.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Steven Stamkos - Lightning. Two goals and two assists. Tied career high with four points.
- Ben Bishop - Lightning. 40 saves. Played second half of the game after losing two teeth.
- Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. One goal and three assists. Career-high four points.