When these teams met on February 25th in Tampa, the Maple Leafs netted two power play goals en route to a 4-3 victory. Again tonight, special teams play was the difference. Toronto scored two power play goals while the Lightning went 0-4 on the power play.
In addition to the special teams, there was another storyline to this game. Toronto, after earning just one point during a three-game road trip in California, entered this contest leading the fourth-place Florida Panthers by a single point. So the Maple Leafs began the game playing with the urgency of a team that was in jeopardy of falling below the playoff cut line. For most of the first period, the Lightning weren't able to match it. Toronto posted the first 10 shots on goal in the period and grabbed a lead when William Nylander swept in a rebound during a Leafs power play chance.
The Lightning had a lot of problems in the first period, but the biggest one was that their desperation level didn't equal Toronto's. Once they brought it up, the rest of their game began to click. In the second period, they owned most of the puck possession, shots, and scoring chances. Frederik Andersen made 14 saves in the frame, however, and held the Lightning to just one goal.
The third period was more evenly-played, as both teams had moments when they applied pressure and generated chances. Some of the Lightning's best looks were near-misses - a couple of instances when pucks bounced over sticks when a player was in position to finish. But the Leafs were the only ones to score in the period. During a Toronto power play early in the period, Lightning penalty killers got out of position and Auston Matthews finished a cross-ice feed from Mitch Marner. That goal proved to be the difference in the game.
The Leafs had a lot more at stake in this one than the Lightning and, at least in the first period, it showed. The Lightning did well to push back after the opening frame, though. In the final two periods, the Lightning outshot the Leafs, 27-19, and owned a shot attempt advantage of 48-37. But ultimately, the combination of the Leafs' power play proficiency and Andersen's goaltending proved to be a winning formula for the home team.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1. Frederik Andersen - Maple Leafs. 32 saves.
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 34 saves.
3. Auston Matthews - Maple Leafs. GWG.