Maple Leafs pad third-place Atlantic lead with win against Lightning
Matthews scores tiebreaking goal in third period, 47th of seasonby Dave McCarthy / NHL.com Independent Correspondent
TORONTO -- Auston Matthews scored the tiebreaking goal at 3:38 of the third period, and the Toronto Maple Leafs padded their lead for third place in the Atlantic Division with a 2-1 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday.
Matthews one-timed a cross-crease pass from Mitchell Marner on the power play for his 47th goal of the season and a 2-1 lead.
The Maple Leafs, who lost all three games of a California road trip last week, scoring three goals, defeated the Lightning 4-3 on Feb. 25.
"It could be the divisional kind of rivalry (that led to the strong efforts), and obviously we know they're a really good team, so I think we'd like to find ourselves playing more consistently like we have in (those games against Tampa Bay) no matter who it is against and have starts like we did tonight, no matter who we are playing," Matthews said.
[WATCH: All Lightning vs. Maple Leafs highlights]
Ondrej Palat scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 34 saves for the Lightning (43-21-6), who trail the Boston Bruins by eight points for first place in the Atlantic and lead the Maple Leafs by 11.
"It was disappointing tonight," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "During the course of a year, 82 games, three periods a game, that's a lot of periods of hockey, and for the most part we have a lot of good ones, a small amount we could have been better and couple that are embarrassing, and that would fall under the embarrassing category.
"If you're not going to compete hard, be physical and do things you need to have success, you'll chase a team like that around the rink all night, and that's what we did, especially in the first period."
William Nylander scored, and Frederik Andersen made 32 saves for the Maple Leafs (36-25-9), who moved three points ahead of the Florida Panthers in the Atlantic. Toronto was 2-for-5 on the power play and 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
"The special teams were clearly the difference in the game tonight, not unlike our last game in Tampa Bay," Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. "That was good for us, and we got a really good start to the game in the first period and were well in control."
Video: TBL@TOR: Nylander buries rebound on power play
Toronto outshot Tampa Bay 17-5 in the first period and was outshot 15-5 in the second.
"I think the start was really important, that was a big key for us," Matthews said. "I really thought we controlled the game there in the first. It would have been nice to capitalize on a few more chances to give us a bigger lead, but obviously they're a really good team. The second period got away from us a bit, took some penalties, but I think that first period is a good starting point for us in terms of how we want to play."
The Maple Leafs took a 1-0 lead at 12:42 of the first period when Nylander put in a rebound on the power play after John Tavares deflected Marner's shot in the slot.
Palat tied it 1-1 at 15:22 of the second period when he put in a rebound after Andersen saved a shot by Nikita Kucherov.
Video: TBL@TOR: Palat cleans up in front to knot the score
Andersen made saves on Carter Verhaeghe on a breakaway at 2:15 of the second period and on Palat, who shot from the top of the crease at 3:57 of the third period, 19 seconds after Matthews gave Toronto the lead.
"That's one of the best offensive teams in the NHL and we didn't give up a great deal," Keefe said. "When we did, Freddie was outstanding, in the second period especially."
They said it
"Tonight we didn't come prepared. I remember looking up at the shots and it was 10-1 at one point. Just not good enough. It doesn't matter if it's at home or on the road, but you just want to have a better start than that. The League is a shot-and-retrieval league, that's how you create your opportunities, and they were winning a lot of battles for pucks in the first period and getting pucks on net while we weren't getting anything through. They had a tough road trip, they came in here playing desperate, desperate hockey, and you could tell right from the beginning." -- Lightning forward Alex Killorn
"We've talked about being more consistent, and I think now more than ever, just given the standings, the time of year and remaining games, I think it's an opportunity for us to start to play well and build some momentum. I think if you look back to this time last year, our performances weren't what we wanted them to be in time for playoffs, and this year we've got a chance to fix that." -- Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly
Need to know
Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman missed a second game with a lower-body injury, though he did take part in the morning skate. ... Rielly had one shot playing 21:47 after missing 23 games with a broken foot. ... Matthews has 32 goals at home this season, two behind Darryl Sittler (1977-78) for the most in Maple Leafs history.
Lightning: Host the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SNE, SNO, SNP, TVAS, SUN, NBCSP, NHL.TV)
Maple Leafs: Host the Nashville Predators on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; TSN4, FS-TN, NHL.TV)