In some ways, this contest was a mirror image of the first meeting between the clubs, a 4-1 Lightning victory on December 13. In both contests, the winning goalie delivered an outstanding performance. In the first game, Andrei Vasilevskiy tied a Lightning regular season franchise record by making 48 saves. Tonight, it was Frederik Andersen's turn to shine. He stopped 36 of 38 Lightning shots.
In both games, the losing team was extremely dangerous on the power play. Many of the Leafs' best scoring chances in the December game came on their six unsuccessful power play chances. In this game, the Lightning posted 10 shots in going one-for-four on the power play. They also peppered Andersen in the final minutes during a six-on-five extra attacker situation.
While the result wasn't what the Lightning wanted, they do know that they played a much better overall game than they did in the first meeting. Having written that, the Leafs had two very strong segments tonight - they applied lots of pressure in the closing 10 minutes of the first period and again did so for about five or six minutes in the second half of the third period.
But for much of the rest of the game, the Lightning were able to dictate play, something they weren't able to accomplish back on December 13. Credit the Leafs for defending hard in front of their goalie - Toronto blocked 21 Lightning shots. But in the end, Andersen was the difference. He made 10 saves on Steven Stamkos alone (including an in-alone look for Stamkos in the first period when Stamkos broke past the two Toronto defensemen). Andersen recorded two saves in the second period with the shaft of his stick, keeping pucks out that seemed to be on their way into the net. Then, in those frantic closing minutes during the Lightning's six-on-five, he tracked the puck well and made a handful of difficult saves while moving side-to-side.
The Lightning's nine-game home winning streak has ended. On Saturday, they'll play their final game before their bye week. It's against San Jose, the team that ended the Lightning's sixteen-game point streak earlier in the month. The Sharks have been hot - they had won seven straight losing in Arizona on Wednesday. So both clubs will be looking to avoid consecutive losses.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1. Victor Hedman - Lightning. Goal, assist. Eight shots.
2. Frederik Andersen - Maple Leafs. 36 saves.
3. Kasperi Kapanen - Maple Leafs. Assist.