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Maple Leafs post complete win against Lightning

by Lonnie Herman

TAMPA -- It was a team effort, and that is exactly what the Toronto Maple Leafs needed.

They got a goal each from four players, and Jonathan Bernier stopped 33 shots in a 4-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The Maple Leafs have won 10 of 13 games and got back on track after a loss Tuesday to the Florida Panthers. Toronto is one point behind Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division.

"We're going to need offense from everybody, and tonight was one of those nights that we got a contribution from a lot of different people in our lineup," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said.

"We gave up some chances, but we created some chances with our forecheck. We were opportunistic in the hockey game, and I thought the third period was an indication that we were going to play the same way, and that’s always a great sight. We needed a response from the other night and we got one tonight."

Tampa Bay, which has dropped four of its past five, may have lost more than a game and some points in the standings.

The Lightning began the third period with Cedric Desjardins in goal after Ben Bishop sustained an upper-body injury. Bishop, who has 27 wins this season, finished two periods with 21 saves and the Lightning trailing 1-0. Forward Valtteri Filppula sustained a lower-body injury in the third period.

"Don’t bother asking about the injuries," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "I don’t have an answer, truthfully, and don’t ask about recalls, because I don’t have an answer to that either."

At 2:19 into the third, Desjardins found himself face-to-face with Toronto forward Jay McClement, who was holding the puck alone in front of the crease. McClement faked to his left and drew Desjardins along with him while he slipped the puck into the vacated right side of the net. McClement's goal, his third of the season, was assisted by David Clarkson and Joffrey Lupul for the 2-0 lead.

"It's just fun to be able to contribute," McClement said, "but more important, it was a huge win for us."

Toronto took a 3-0 lead when James van Riemsdyk twice batted a rebound out of the air. His first swing sent the puck onto Desjardins' shoulder but the forward managed to get his stick blade on it again before the puck could land on the ice. Goal No. 22 for van Riemsdyk came at 8:10.

Ondrej Palat cut the lead to 3-1 when he split the Toronto defense and lifted the puck over Bernier. Martin St. Louis, named to the Canada Olympic team earlier in the day to replace injured teammate Steven Stamkos, and Tyler Johnson assisted.

"I think that the first period and most of the second, we played in their zone," Palat said. "Then they scored on a breakaway and we got frustrated. That’s the key. We have to play our game."

Tyler Bozak scored an empty-net goal with 2:52 remaining. Bernier made several great stops on the way to his 21st win.

"We want to finish strong before the break with as many points as possible," Bernier said. "We had a good game, but we've got to move on and focus for Saturday (against the Vancouver Canucks)."

Carlyle singled out a prime reason Toronto (31-22-6) has been moving up in the standings.

"If you don't have goaltending, you don't have a starting point in the NHL," Carlyle said. "We're not any different than any other hockey club: The goaltender is your last line of defense, and our guys have given us a chance for a better part of this year."

The Maple Leafs scored first at 7:57 of the second period when Mason Raymond took advantage of a sloppy player change by Tampa Bay and broke away along the left boards. His high backhand shot beat Bishop for his 15th goal of the season.

The Toronto defense held the top three Tampa Bay goal-scorers, St. Louis, Filppula and Johnson, without a shot.

"We played good at times throughout the game, just missing that killer instinct, I guess," St. Louis said. "Not very opportunistic I guess. It starts with out top guys too."

The Lightning (32-20-5) have not been scoring of late and the drop-off has Cooper concerned.

"I guess we can sit here and talk all we want, but I thought we had a ton of chances and ultimately in the end we scored one goal tonight, we scored one [at the Minnesota Wild], and we scored one [at the Montreal Canadiens] (in regulation)," Cooper said. "If you’re going to score one goal a game, it makes winning the game a little bit more difficult. We have to find ways to score more goals."

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