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Maple Leafs fail to clinch playoff berth again

Lightning move within three points in Eastern wild-card race

by Dave McCarthy / NHL.com Correspondent

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs failed to clinch a Stanley Cup Playoff berth when they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who remained in contention with a 4-1 at Air Canada Centre on Thursday.

"We made it way harder than it should be, we didn't play like we normally do," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "I thought we were slow; I don't know if we were tight but we weren't in sync. They won all the battles and all the races and we never established the game we normally play."

Toronto (39-26-15) would have qualified for the playoffs and eliminated Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders with a win. It leads them by three points for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference. New York defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0. 

 

WATCH: All Lightning vs. Maple Leafs highlights

 

Toronto fell three points behind the Ottawa Senators and two behind the Boston Bruins in the race for second place in the Atlantic Division. Ottawa defeated Boston 2-1 in a shootout and clinched a playoff berth.

Brayden Point scored twice, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 26 saves for the Lightning (40-30-10), who have two games remaining. 

"We had to win it, we knew that," Point said. "I thought we worked hard, I thought we spent a lot of time in their end pressuring them. We did a good job defending as well. We had to win it and I think we played like it."

Point gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead at 7:34 of the second period on a power play. He took a pass from Ondrej Palat, who was behind the goal line, and beat Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen with a wrist shot from the slot. 

Video: TBL@TOR: Point buries Palat's smooth feed for PPG

Nazem Kadri scored 2:08 later to tie the game 1-1. Nikita Kucherov gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead at 11:50 with his 39th goal of the season. 

Tampa Bay took a 3-1 lead at 2:00 of the third period when Michael Bournival scored from the slot after taking a pass from defenseman Andrej Sustr behind the goal line.

Point scored his second of the game at 14:11 to make it 4-1.

The Lightning killed penalties to Andrej Sustr at 12:21 and Anton Stralman at 14:13 of the first period.

"You've got to give a lot of credit to our penalty kill," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "That was four straight minutes to a really good power play and we really didn't give them too much. That was a big boost for us; it was a springboard for us for the rest of the game."

 

Goal of the game

Matt Hunwick took a shot from the right-wing boards that was deflected by Kadri past Vasilevskiy's glove.

Video: TBL@TOR: Kadri tips Hunwick's shot past Vasilevskiy

 

Save of the game

Jonathan Drouin had a breakaway at 16:08 of the second period and took a backhand shot, but Andersen reached back to make a glove save. Video review determined Andersen kept his glove out of the net when making the save.

Video: TBL@TOR: Andersen robs Drouin with unbelievable save

 

Highlight of the game

Kucherov skated around Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly at the blue line and beat Andersen with a wrist shot while using defenseman Roman Polak as a screen.

Video: TBL@TOR: Kucherov carves up defense for pretty goal

 

Unsung performance of the game

Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov sprawled to block a shot from William Nylander at 3:35 of the second period while killing a penalty. The shot went off Namestnikov's stick and hit him in the face but he did not miss any time.

 

They said it

"Guys believe in what we're doing, and I'm sure people looked at our lineup card tonight trying to figure out who some of these guys were, but you know what, they're hockey players. They've got a goal and it's one game at a time right now. You just can't rely on Point and Palat and Kucherov to do everything for you. We're not anywhere without those guys, but you need secondary help, and these guys are there for us. It's been a lot of fun to coach this team." -- Lightning coach Jon Cooper

 

"I won't worry about my message about Pittsburgh yet, we'll fix this. We'll look at this totally and get [ourselves] right. It doesn't matter what Pittsburgh does. We have to get [ourselves] right to play and play like we normally do and don't let the excitement of the moment or the energy of the moment or what we're trying to do get in the way of who were are. As good as Tampa Bay was, we got in our own way tonight." -- Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock on looking ahead to Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins

 

Need to know

Lightning forward Tyler Johnson (lower body) was scratched. Cooper would not confirm his status for Friday against the Montreal Canadiens. … Lightning captain Steven Stamkos (knee) said after the morning skate he was unlikely to return in the regular season.

 

What's next

Lightning: At the Montreal Canadiens on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SNE, RDS, NHL.TV)

Maple Leafs: Host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, NHLN, ROOT, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Point's two-goal game powers Lightning past Leafs

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