It’s true that the Lightning lost this game in the third period. With the score tied at one, Ben Smith netted the eventual game-winner with just under 11 minutes left in the third. But it’s also true that the Lightning’s third period was, by far, their best period in the game. They fired 18 shots on Jonathan Bernier, owned nearly all of the puck possession and generated a multitude of scoring chances. At the other end, the Leafs were mostly quiet in the third. Take away their two empty-net goals and they posted only six shots in the period. Two came on one play – the Smith goal was a rebound off a Michael Grabner shot – and three others during a five-on-three power play early in the third.
So the Lightning lost this game because of a coverage error on the Smith goal (they allowed a three-on-two which led to the goal). They lost it because Bernier had a terrific third period. But they also lost it because they didn’t bring the same level of intensity in the first two periods that they exhibited in the third. As a result, they didn’t enjoy as much extended time in the offensive zone, which resulted in a low shot total. The Lightning managed only 11 shots in the opening 40 minutes and, as a result, were trailing 1-0 entering the third.
Both teams defended well without the puck during the game, especially during those first two periods. They both blocked lots of shots and limited opposition scoring chances. So it’s not as though the Lightning played badly during those first two periods. But when they raised their level in the third, the Leafs didn’t have an answer. So one has to wonder, had the Lightning been able to reach that level earlier on, if the game might have unfolded differently.
But it didn’t. Instead, it remained a scoreless contest well into the second period. And for a few minutes during that timeframe, the Lightning’s play dipped a bit. They committed an unforced icing infraction and the Leafs applied pressure after winning the ensuing faceoff. Connor Carrick jumped on a bouncing puck at the top of the right circle and blasted a shot past the stick of Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Lightning got into penalty trouble late in the second and early in the third. They killed off three consecutive penalties, including a five-on-three. Then, once they were back at even strength, they took over the game. The Leafs committed numerous icing infractions themselves in the third – and one of those led to Brian Boyle’s tying goal at 6:33.
Smith’s goal, which occurred about two and a half minutes later, came on one isolated rush for Toronto, but it proved to be the difference in the game. It just goes to show how hard it is to chase deficits in the NHL.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Smith’s winning goal in the third period.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Jonathan Bernier – Maple Leafs. 26 saves for win.
2.Ben Smith – Maple Leafs. GWG and assist.
3.Andrei Vasilevskiy – Only 2 GA on 21 shots.