This was one of the worst performances of the year for the Lightning. It came against a Toronto club that had just been pummeled at home, 9-2, and had been outscored 15-4 in the previous two contests. Given the circumstances surrounding the home side, the Lightning had an opportunity, with an early goal, to pounce on a fragile team.
But it was the Leafs who scored the first goal – just 1:29 into the game – and that helped settle them down. One of the rare positive sequences for the Lightning came late in the first period when they killed off an extended five-on-three and received a shorthanded goal from Alex Killorn. But that tally, which tied the score at one, did not help the Lightning's overall game and they weren't able to build any momentum from it.
Simply put, the Lightning couldn't execute plays throughout the night. They repeatedly turned pucks over. Their positioning was awful, so the Leafs had no trouble exiting their own zone and generating looks off the rush. They struggled to complete passes up ice. When they had possession in the offensive zone, they didn't get enough pucks to the net. They lost puck battles. And they won only 35 percent of faceoffs. The Maple Leafs deserve credit for playing a spirited game. But the Lightning also made life easy for them.
Down 4-1 with about five minutes left in the third, Jon Cooper pulled Ben Bishop for an extra attacker. It was only then (and for a brief stretch of time late in the second) that the Lightning played with the urgency and crispness that they needed from the start. They cut the Toronto lead to 4-2 with 4:13 left, but couldn't get any closer.
For the first time this year, the Lightning have lost back-to-back games in regulation. The Bolts pride themselves on being a team that rebounds well after losses. It didn't happen in this game. If they hope to end the skid, they'll need a much better performance on Saturday against Minnesota.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
James Van Riemsdyk's second period goal that extended the Toronto lead to 3-1.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
- James Van Riemsdyk – Toronto. Two goals.
- Tyler Bozak – Toronto. Two assists. Won 22 of 30 faceoffs.
- Jonathan Bernier – Toronto. 26 saves.