The Toronto Maple Leafs lead the NHL in offense for a reason. Their roster is filled with highly-skilled players who are very creative in the offensive zone. The Leafs, however, often spend much of a game without the puck and are usually outshot.
Fans at Amalie Arena saw both sides of the Maple Leafs in this game. A couple of nifty passing plays early in the game led to two Toronto goals (coupled with loose Lightning coverage). But from the halfway point of the first period right on through to the end of the game, the Lightning dictated play. They outshot the Leafs, 41-23, and, at one point, held Toronto without a shot for almost 20 full minutes (stretching from the middle of the first to the middle of the second). With such a large advantage in puck possession, the Lightning accumulated lots of shots – and scoring chances – on Toronto goalie James Reimer. The Lightning’s forecheck was tenacious and relentless, often preventing the Leafs from doing anything with the puck except clearing their d-zone and changing players (and that was a best-case scenario for Toronto).
But the Bolts didn’t break through until Ryan Callahan’s power play goal at 6:37 of the second. It was Tampa Bay’s first PPG in six games and just the fourth PPG in the previous 45 chances. It was a very important goal, as it cut the Toronto lead to one. The Lightning tied the score just over three minutes later, when Victor Hedman’s right circle shot deflected in off Valtteri Filppula’s skate.
The Lightning earned their first lead of the night at 11:05 of the third when Steven Stamkos deflected in a Matt Carle point shot. The sequence was similar to many the Lightning had throughout the evening. The Lightning worked the puck into the offensive zone and forced a turnover from the Leafs.
After Filppula’s goal had tied the score back in the second, even though the Leafs still didn’t have the puck often, they were able to generate some very dangerous chances off the rush. But Ben Bishop stopped them all. It’s not easy for a goalie to go without any action for long stretches, then suddenly contend with a scoring chance against. His best saves came on a James Van Riemsdyk shorthanded bid, an in-alone chance for Tyler Bozak early in the third and a sixth-attacker stop on Phil Kessel in the closing seconds.
This was a hard-fought, satisfying divisional win. One in which the Lightning rallied from an early two-goal deficit. And they did it on a night in which the Tyler Johnson-Nikita Kucherov-Ondrej Palat line, which has been so dynamic this season, was held off the scoresheet. But Callahan (goal and assist, four shots), Victor Hedman (two assists, 24:20 TOI) and Stamkos (GWG, six shots) all had monster games and led the Lightning comeback.
The Lightning swept the just-completed three-game homestand. In all three games, they dominated puck possession and were able to dictate play for long stretches. Now they’ll look to take that show on the road, where they’ll play the next four, including three contests against division opponents.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Callahan’s PPG, which began the Lightning comeback.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Ryan Callahan – Lightning. PPG and assist.
2.Victor Hedman – Lightning. Two assists.
3.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. GWG. Six shots.