Maple Leafs-Lightning Preview
GAME: Toronto Maple Leafs (25-22-4) at Tampa Bay Lightning (27-21-4).
TIME: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
The Toronto Maple Leafs endured a difficult few weeks, but things might be looking up again.
After halting an eight-game losing streak, the Maple Leafs try to win consecutive games in Florida and may get leading scorer Bryan McCabe back when they visit the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
Toronto snapped the skid with a 4-2 victory Monday over the Florida Panthers. Darcy Tucker and Jeff O'Neill scored on two-man advantages, Mats Sundin had three assists, and Ed Belfour made 33 saves in the Leafs' first win since Jan. 7.
"Once you have a losing streak like we had, you question every aspect of your game," Sundin said. "We think we have a good hockey team. When we come out of something like this, I think it makes you better."
The losing streak began when McCabe missed his first game this season with a groin injury. He had been enjoying the finest season of his 10-year career.
McCabe's 49 points lead the Maple Leafs and are just four shy of his career high of 53, set in 2003-04. McCabe is the only NHL defenseman leading his team in points.
Toronto was 24-15-3 with McCabe in the lineup but just 1-7-1 since his injury.
With 54 points, the Leafs have a two-point lead over the Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
The Lightning lost 2-1 Sunday to the Washington Capitals, ending a stretch of six consecutive games with at least one point.
Tampa Bay came up short despite having seven power plays and outshooting the Capitals 35-24.
"We had a chance to win," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We doubled them in scoring chances and we don't score. We lose a couple of battles in the neutral zone at the end there. They were bad coverages and it was in the net, game over."
Vincent Lecavalier scored the lone goal for Tampa Bay. Lecavalier, a selection for the Canadian Olympic team, has five goals and four assists in his last five games against the Maple Leafs.
The Lightning have won three of the last four meetings in the series, although Toronto is 30-11-2 in the all-time series between the teams.
STANDINGS: Maple Leafs - 54 points, 3rd place, 18 PB, Northeast Division. Lightning - 58 points, 2nd place, 18 PB, Southeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Maple Leafs - Tucker, 20 goals; Tomas Kaberle, 35 assists; McCabe, 49 points; Ken Klee, 64 PIM. Lightning - Fredrik Modin, 22 goals; Vaclav Prospal, 37 assists and 55 points; Pavel Kubina, 74 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Maple Leafs - Power play: 20.4 percent (67 for 328), 5th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.7 percent (263 for 326), 23rd. Lightning - Power play: 14.0 percent (43 for 308), 28th. Penalty killing: 83.7 percent (210 for 251), 11th.
GOALTENDERS: Maple Leafs - Belfour (19-17-2, 0 SO, 3.41 GAA); Mikael Tellqvist (6-5-2, 1, 2.79). Lightning - John Grahame (19-15-1, 4, 2.67); Sean Burke (8-5-3, 1, 2.53).
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 30, 2005; Lightning, 2-1. At Tampa, Fla., Kubina's power play goal 11:22 into the third period was the game-winner and Grahame made 20 saves to win his sixth straight decision. Nik Antropov scored for Toronto.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Maple Leafs - 10-13-2 on the road; Lightning - 13-9-2 at home.