This was a game in which the Lightning started extremely well, but lost momentum as the game progressed. Conversely, the Toronto Maple Leafs started poorly, but got stronger throughout the night. Along the way, both goalies were fantastic, especially when the opposition was pressing.
The Lightning scored on their first power play chance of the night, a goal off a Steven Stamkos one-timer from the left circle at 4:38 of the first period. It was the Lightning’s second shot of the night and it gave them an early boost. The Lightning had the puck for nearly the entire first half of the opening period. They fired the game’s first 13 shots on net – and generated numerous scoring chances during that time. But Jonathan Bernier, in goal for Toronto, stopped all of those Grade-A looks to keep the game at 1-0.
Down at the other end, Andrei Vasilevskiy didn’t face a shot on goal until the game was nearly 12 and a half minutes old. But as the first period neared its conclusion, the Leafs began pushing back and they had a couple of dangerous chances of their own. Vasilevskiy’s best first period save came with Toronto on the penalty kill – he stopped a high shot from Michael Grabner with the top of his right shoulder.
In the second period, the Leafs outshot the Lightning, 11-5, but the period was more evenly played than that. The Lightning enjoyed some long sustained offensive zone shifts, but couldn’t translate that puck possession into shots and scoring chances. The Leafs, on the other hand, did a good job of getting pucks on net, especially during a couple of second period power play chances. Still, the period ended with the Lightning holding the 1-0 lead.
Unlike the second, the third period wasn’t evenly played. The Leafs spent most of the period attacking. Similar to how the Lightning controlled play in the first, the Leafs applied a lot of pressure throughout the third. Vasilevskiy made 13 more saves in the period, including stops on a Dion Phaneuf point blank shot and a Morgan Rielly breakaway. Thanks to Vasilevskiy, the Lightning held on for the 1-0 victory.
How did the game turn so drastically? Regaining momentum after losing it isn’t always easy. Give the Leafs credit for grabbing it in the third period and not relinquishing it. Also, compared to their play in the first period, the Lightning were not as crisp in their puck management later on, so they didn’t have as much offensive zone possession time. Furthermore, the Lightning weren’t as consistent in getting pucks to the Toronto net – after posting 17 first period shots, the Bolts only fired 12 shots on goal in the final two periods combined.
But that’s why hockey is such a compelling sport. Momentum can turn drastically within a game, which can make both teams – at different points - look dominant. If not for Bernier, the Lightning might have buried the Leafs in the opening 10 minutes of the game. Instead, Bernier kept his team close and the Leafs were able to surge. But Vasilevskiy, whose parents were in the stands after making the trip from Russia, stood tall. He didn’t let the Leafs capitalize when they were dictating play.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Jassen Cullimore):
Vasilevskiy’s breakaway save on Morgan Rielly in the third period.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Jassen Cullimore):
1.Andrei Vasilevskiy – Lightning. 30 saves. Shutout win.
2.Jonathan Bernier – Maple Leafs. 28 saves. Hard luck loss.
3.Victor Hedman – Lightning. Strong on defense.