Well, this was a clunker for the Lightning. Don't be fooled by the Lightning's shot-on-goal advantage (33-21), their shot attempt edge (69-42) or that they ultimately generated more scoring chances than the Leafs. Most of those advantages came after the Leafs had grabbed a big lead early in the second period.
Rather, this loss can be chalked up to a number of factors. First, credit the Leafs for a strong, defensive performance in the game after they allowed seven goals in a loss to the Panthers. They did well to contest loose pucks, block shots and clear rebounds from the front of their net. Also, in the offensive zone, Toronto was effective in getting point shots through traffic and on goal. All five of the Maple Leafs goals originated with a point shot. The first two went in past a screened Andrei Vasilevskiy. The next two were rebound goals after a save was made on the initial point shot. And the last one came after the point shot was blocked - but it was blocked in the low slot and the puck ended up in a prime scoring area for James Van Riemsdyk.
Second, the Lightning didn't defend well. While high marks go to the Leafs for executing on those goals, the Bolts didn't do enough to prevent them. None of the aforementioned point shots was blocked up high in the zone. Also, the Lightning's coverage in front of their net was poor, so the Leafs were able to jump on those rebounds after the first save was made.
Third, while his team provided him with a big lead in the early stages of the second period, Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen had a solid performance to help his team maintain that lead. Any time there was a Toronto breakdown, Andersen took away the Lightning scoring chance. Those key saves included a shorthanded stop on Yanni Gourde in the first period and 13 overall saves on five Lightning power play chances.
Fourth, while neither Jon Cooper nor the players used this as an excuse, this game was a tough one on the schedule. The Lightning were playing their fourth game in six nights (the Leafs weren't) and had gotten in from Ottawa at 5:00 AM on Wednesday (the Leafs had been in Florida since Sunday). The Bolts didn't look quite as sharp as they had been during most of the games during their 12-2-3 surge prior to this contest.
Fortunately for the Lightning, just about every other team in the Eastern Conference playoff race (other than the Leafs) lost on Thursday in regulation. Now they must regroup and get ready for Saturday's matchup with league-leading Washington.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Matt Martin's goal in the second period to make it 3-0
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
- Frederik Andersen - Maple Leafs. 33 saves.
- Roman Polak - Maple Leafs. Goal.
- Brian Boyle - Maple Leafs. Strong game in return to Amalie Arena.