Welcome back to the lineup, Brayden Point. Point's line, with Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, had a monster night. The three players combined for five goals and 11 points, propelling the Lightning to a runaway victory.
The Leafs didn't have an answer for that line, which played with speed, tenacity and creativity throughout the night. Point's impact was felt in the opening minutes. He knocked in a rebound 2:28 into the game. As a whole, the first period was a high-scoring affair, as the teams combined for seven goals. But the Lightning decisively controlled the second half of the frame. Down 2-1, the Bolts received their first power play at 9:42. They applied heavy pressure throughout the man advantage and cashed in before it ended. With 20 seconds left on the power play and an offensive zone faceoff to the right of Frederik Andersen, the Lightning sent out Anthony Cirelli to take the draw. He won it so cleanly that the Leafs didn't have time to react when Victor Hedman set up Kucherov for a one-timer at the right point. Kucherov ripped the shot into the top of the net, tying the game at two.
The strong power play and Kucherov's eventual goal gave the Lightning momentum. It's true that they allowed one more goal in the period, but that was an isolated play. The rest of the frame belonged to the Lightning. Kevin Shattenkirk scored off the rush, tucking home an open chance in front. And Cirelli, out for another power play faceoff late in the final minute of the period, set up Stamkos with a terrific cross-ice pass. That power play goal gave the Lightning the lead for good, as it turned out.
The Leafs made a push in the second period. They reversed the Lightning's first period puck possession edge. But the Lightning defended hard without the puck, limiting the number of Toronto scoring chances. They did yield a few Grade-As, but Andrei Vasilevskiy took care of those. And despite ceding much of the possession time in the period to the Leafs, the Lightning, when they did go on the attack, continued to create dangerous looks of their own. One of the those led to Point's second goal of the night - he tipped in a Kucherov shot following a crisp passing sequence in the offensive zone.
Ondrej Palat's early third period goal resulted from two fortunate bounces. Cirelli's dump-in hit an official and ricocheted directly to Palat at the right circle. Then, Palat's centering pass deflected off Kasperi Kapanen and went into the net. That tally, which made the score 6-3, took the wind out of Toronto's sails. Until the late stages of the game, the Leafs managed only one shot on net in the period (they would finish with four SOG in the third). Kucherov finished the scoring, coming out of the penalty box as the puck went into the Toronto zone. After the Leafs turned the puck over, he teamed up with Stamkos to finish an open look from the right circle.
Certainly, the Point-Kucherov-Stamkos line led the way for the Lightning tonight. But every player in uniform brought a high compete-level. It was a strong bounce-back game after Sunday's disappointing performance in Carolina.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. Two goals and two assists.
- Brayden Point - Lightning. Two goals and one assist.
- Steven Stamkos - Ligthning. Goal and three assists.