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Maple Leafs edge the Lightning in thriller at Air Canada Centre

On Monday night, The Tampa Bay Lightning traveled north to face the Atlantic Division rival Toronto Maple Leafs for the second time this year. Having won seven of their previous 10 games, the Bolts were looking to keep up the momentum after winning their previous two contests. 

Before their victory on Saturday against the LA Kings, the Lightning retired the number of former captain Vincent Lecavalier, reminding fans of their Stanley Cup Championship win in 2004. With Andrei Vasilevskiy in net again, the Lightning started their two-game road trip with their dads along for the ride. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, the Maple Leafs prevented them from gaining two valuable points on the road.

William Nylander scored a pair of goals while Frederik Andersen made 31 saves as the Leafs beat the Lightning in a 4-3 thriller at the Air Canada Centre. Vasilevskiy took the loss, making 19 saves, while Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, and Yanni Gourde hit the back of the net for the Bolts.

Nylander powered the Leafs to a 2-0 lead and nearly got a hat trick in the process.

Toronto started the game by controlling the tempo on offense, forcing Vasilevskiy to come up with some big saves. However, the Maple Leafs scored first mid-way thru the opening period, as Nylander one-timed a shot past Vasilevskiy after a setup from Auston Matthews. Toronto continued their aggressive play into the 2nd period, where a breakaway goal by Nylander put them up 2-0. Moments later, Nylander narrowly missed a hat trick chance with a shot that went just wide of the outstretched pad of Vasilevskiy. There were great battles on both ends of the ice, but Toronto was the team finishing their opportunities even though the Lightning were out-shooting the Leafs 15-11.

Toronto’s lead increased to 3-0 when Vasilevskiy let one by that he’d probably like to have back.

With the Lightning’s defenseman backing off due to the speed of both Nylander and Matthews, Jake Gardiner took a pass from Nylander and fired a simple wrist shot from the high slot that eluded Vasilevskiy for his fourth of the season. Later on, the Bolts received a huge opportunity in the form of their second power play of the night. Despite some good lucks, they came up short, and it appeared the three-goal lead would hold up at the second intermission. However, Alex Killorn put away a rebound goal from in front of the Toronto net, with four minutes remaining in the second period, cutting the Leafs’ lead to 3-1.

Bolts come firing back, but the rally would fall short.

Carrying over the momentum from the second period, Tampa Bay came out firing on all cylinders in the third. They scored two goals in just 20 seconds, tying the game 3-3. Kucherov tallied his 30th of the season, collecting a loose puck and firing a shot past Andersen to make it 3-2. Gourde notched his 21st of the season when he deflected a Braydon Coburn shot into the net. The rest of the match was very fast, becoming a track meet and remaining that way until the game ended. After seeing the contest turn into a back-and-forth affair, James van Riemsdyk scored the eventual game-winner for the Leafs at the 4:37 mark of the third period. While the Lightning generated plenty of chances the rest of the way, including a furious late push after pulling Vasilevksiy for an extra skater, their comeback bid fell short.

The Lightning will return to the ice Tuesday night when they head to Buffalo to take on the Sabres in the second half of this back-to-back set. Puck drops at 7 pm.

Game Notes

-With his 30th goal, Kucherov became just the fourth player in Lightning history to record three straight 30-goal seasons, joining Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, and Steven Stamkos in that department.

-Coburn’s assist on Gourde’s goal was the 200th point of his NHL career.

-Killorn is on a four-game point streak, collecting three goals and two assists in that time. He also has 10 points in his last six games if you include his five-point night in Calgary on February 1.

Three Stars of the Game

1st Star: William Nylander – Two goals and one assist

2nd Star: Auston Matthews – Three assists

3rd Star: Nikita Kucherov – One goal and one assist.

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