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Day after clinching, Lightning lose to Maple Leafs

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- The Tampa Bay Lightning missed an opportunity take over first place in the Atlantic Division, losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday.

The Lightning (47-24-7) remained one point behind the Montreal Canadiens in the Atlantic. Tampa Bay clinched a Stanley Cup Playoff berth Monday with a 5-3 win against Montreal, which did not play Tuesday.

"It's a tough one; we didn't play very well," Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said. "You can't talk about us playing back-to-back games and talk about our injuries, but I still think we could have won the game if we played like we can. We have to get back to that. The compete early in the game and the attention to details were not there."

The Lightning played without four regular defensemen. Victor Hedman (upper body) left the game Monday after one shift of the third period, and joined Andrej Sustr (upper body), Jason Garrison (upper body) and Braydon Coburn (lower body) as injured.

Defenseman Slater Koekkoek, Tampa Bay's first pick (No. 10) in the 2012 NHL Draft, made his NHL debut after being called up from the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.

Lightning center Tyler Johnson, their second-leading scorer, missed his second game with an upper-body injury.

"We talked about doing all those little things right going into the Montreal game and we did them," Stamkos said. "We talked about them again before tonight's game and for whatever reason we didn't execute. It's tough to go down in a hole 2-0 early. We just weren't prepared to play."

The Lightning have lost three of their past four games.

"We have a lot to play for," Tampa Bay forward Brian Boyle said. "We're playing for home ice in the playoffs. It was an emotional game (Monday) for sure, and it takes a lot out of you, but we have to find a way to bounce back. There are not many games left (four), so we have to find a way to find the energy. We played some great hockey in Montreal, some of our best of the year, and we have to find a way to be consistent."

The Lightning outshot the Maple Leafs 41-28.

"With the lineup we have in here, we can get chances in our sleep sometimes," Boyle said. "We just don't want to give up chances like we did tonight. Sure we hit a couple of posts and we could have turned it into an ugly game where we get a point, but we've got to be more consistent."

Toronto (29-42-6) took a 1-0 lead with Tampa Bay's Brendan Morrow in the penalty box for tripping. Nazem Kadri tipped Joakim Lindstrom's one-timer past goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy at 8:53 of the first period.

David Booth made it 2-0 at 12:03 when his sharp-angle shot from the right side beat Vasilevskiy to the far side. It was Booth's seventh goal of the season, first in eight games.

The Lightning made it 2-1 at 18:04 when Ryan Callahan tapped home a rebound in front after goalie James Reimer made a splits save on Ondrej Palat with Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly off for holding.

Rielly scored 24 seconds into the third period, his eighth goal of the season, to make it 3-1. The left-shooting defenseman broke to the Tampa Bay net on the right side, took a pass from Kadri and put a high wrist shot past Vasilevskiy on the short side.

"When you get a team on the back-to-backs you want to get on them early," Maple Leafs coach Peter Horachek said. "They had a few injuries, and for us to be ready to play and get those goals early was important. As the game goes on, it was harder for them to have the push back."

Reimer made 40 saves for his ninth victory of the season (9-15-0). He defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-3 in overtime on Saturday.

"James has battled, deserved to play those two games, and getting those two wins was a confidence booster for him," Horachek said. "When you are not playing every night or every other night, a lot of times you are dropping pucks and your timing is off. He looked like he had his confidence, and the rebounds weren't being pushed back out there. Sometimes when he has been out of games for a period of time, he drops pucks."

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