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Lightning rally past Maple Leafs in Bernier's return

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- Vladislav Namestnikov's goal 2:01 into overtime gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 5-4 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday.

It was his sixth goal of the season and first in 13 games. He last scored Nov. 14 against the Florida Panthers.

He skated in 2-on-1 with Alex Killorn and shot short-side over goalie Jonathan Bernier's blocker.

"I looked for a second and didn't like what I saw, so I kept going and waited for a better shot," Namestnikov said.

Tampa Bay (16-13-3) has won the first two games of a three-game road trip. The Lightning visit the Washington Capitals on Friday.

"It was an awesome win," Namestnikov said. "We showed no quit and that is how good teams play. It is encouraging, and now we have to carry it over into Washington."

Bernier allowed five goals on 27 shots and has not won this season (0-8-2). He returned to the NHL after a two-week conditioning stint in the American Hockey League with the Toronto Marlies, when he was 3-1-0 with three shutouts.

"Obviously you didn't want to give up as many as we did," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "We made some mistakes, they scored. Even though they have some injuries, they've still got some good skill in the lineup. I thought 90 (Namestnikov) and 86 (Nikita Kucherov) were outstanding for them tonight, as was 77 (Victor Hedman), so they had a good night.

"We had enough, we were up 3-1 with a minute left (in the second period), and didn't like to see us give up that goal going into the third. To me, we should've been able to look after the puck better in that situation. Obviously we battled back to get four and would've liked to win in overtime. We didn't."

Babcock would not commit to starting Bernier at home against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday and said he would make that decision after watching the replay of this game. James Reimer is sidelined with a lower-body injury; rookie Garrett Sparks has won three of his four starts.

Toronto (10-13-6) had won two in a row.

Much of the attention leading up to the game was on Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season if he does not sign with the Lightning beforehand.

Stamkos stirred the pot recently when he "liked" a TSN post on Twitter regarding the possibility of him signing with the Maple Leafs next summer. Stamkos is from nearby Markham, Ontario.

He did not have a point Tuesday and was minus-1 in 21:40 on 25 shifts.

"Time's going to tell," Stamkos said. "Everything will figure itself out. My main focus is trying to focus on my game, and it hasn't been that great as of late. I'm trying to find a way to help contribute a little more. It's obviously satisfying that we're getting the wins and guys are stepping up."

The Lightning got to Bernier early when Kucherov broke in alone and scored with a backhand deke at 2:59.

The Maple Leafs tied it 1-1 at 10:40 with a power-play goal. James van Riemsdyk took a 20-foot snap shot that hit Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in the chest and popped into the air. Toronto center Tyler Bozak swatted it into the goal for his fifth of the season and 100th of his NHL career.

"It's a pretty cool thing to have," Bozak said. "I'm sure I'll look back on it when I'm older. It doesn't mean a ton right now. But I'll be able to look back on that as something to be proud of."

Van Riemsdyk gave Toronto a 2-1 lead at 18:03 when he took a pass from Bozak in front of the Lightning net, escaped the coverage of Tampa Bay defenseman Matthew Carle and slipped a shot past Vasilevskiy for his ninth of the season.

The Maple Leafs made it 3-1 at 11:34 of the second period when defenseman Morgan Rielly and center Nick Spaling broke in 2-on-1. Rielly took a wrist shot that Vasilevskiy got a piece of only to have the puck fall to the ice and crawl over the goal line. The goal came four seconds after Toronto killed back-to-back penalties which included playing two men short for 1:16.

Tampa Bay got that goal back in the final minute when Anton Stralman cruised into the slot with the puck and beat Bernier with a wrist shot for his third goal of the season with 36 seconds left.

The Lightning tied it 3-3 when Mike Blunden, playing his fifth game of the season, was allowed to drive the net unimpeded and snap a shot past Bernier for his first goal at 5:56 of the third period.

Jonathan Marchessault got the next shot through a crowd and past Bernier for his fourth goal of the season to give the Lightning a 4-3 lead 36 seconds after Blunden's goal.

Toronto's Daniel Winnik tied it 4-4 at 13:28 when he redirected a slap pass by defenseman Roman Polak past Vasilevskiy for his third of the season after Spaling won a faceoff in the Tampa Bay end.

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