Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 3-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning Monday at Amalie Arena:
Bolts take advantage of defensive lapses to steadily build lead.
The Lightning are fighting both to secure a playoff berth and for top spot in the Atlantic Division. As such, they came out of the gate with the poise and focus of the defending conference champions they are, taking the first lead of the night on Mike Blunden’s third goal of the season at 7:34 of the first period, adding to it nearly seven minutes later when Ondrej Palat netted his 15th of the year, then extending the lead to three goals on Victor Hedman’s marker at 6:38 of the second frame.
If you only looked at the score, you might think Toronto was thoroughly outplayed, but that wasn’t the case. To the contrary – the Leafs applied all sorts of pressure as the game went on, but Tampa Bay relied on star goaltender Ben Bishop to get through it and pounced on the chances the Buds gave them.
Bishop at his best.
The Lightning netminder is peaking at the right time of the season and was dynamite for the host Bolts Monday, turning aside every shot he was as the Leafs outshot the Bolts 14-4 in the middle frame, 27-14 through 40 minutes and 34-18 overall to post his sixth shutout of the year.
The shutout was also Bishop’s third in his past six games – and given that Tampa will be without the services of injured veteran blueliner Anton Stralman for the foreseeable future, they’ll need the 29-year-old netminder to be at his best.
Hyman, Kadri test Tampa often, but to no avail.
Zach Hyman and Nazem Kadri combined to fire 10 shots at Bishop, but neither Leafs forward was able to solve him, and William Nylander didn’t register a single shot on net. The Bolts blocked Toronto 14 shots, but the Buds were unable to capitalize on second-chance opportunities and get enough traffic in front of Bishop to lead to chaos-type goals.
Leafs can’t capitalize on an abundance of power plays.
The pressure the Leafs put on Tampa resulted in a whopping seven Toronto power plays, but the Buds could muster only 10 shots with the man advantage, and Bishop was up to the challenge on all of them. The power play has been an area of concern for the Buds throughout the season, but player health has been a factor in their struggles on the PP, and with a faster, more skilled unit next year, Toronto should show improvement in that regard.
Hedman, Stamkos lead the way on offence for Lightning.
Tampa Bay’s two young stars contributed on the scoresheet against the Leafs, with blueliner Hedman adding an assist for a two-point night, and centre Steven Stamkos chipping in a pair of assists. The Lightning have no shortage of talent that can put the puck in the net, but when your best players on paper are also your best on the official game report, that’s usually going to mean victory, and it certainly did for the Bolts Monday.