Lightning See Lead Slip Away
Tampa Bay Grabs One Point in Overtime Loss To Leafs
The Tampa Bay Lightning, cruising with a 3-1 advantage after two periods, watched it slip away and finally disappear in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight.
The Lightning hadn’t recorded a shot on net before Matt Smaby
was sent off the ice for boarding at 3:38 of the first period. Three minutes after he emerged from the penalty box, Cory Murphy took his place – called for high sticking at 6:50, and still the shot board was tilted in the Maple Leaf’s favor, 4-0. The Lightning successfully killed off both short handed situations and then turned their attention to the attack; finally breaking through with a shot on net, from the slot in front by Vaclav Prospal, at the 10:00 minute mark of period one.
The calls against Tampa Bay resumed shortly thereafter, and Tampa Bay faced their third power play situation when Noah Welch was called for high sticking at 11:01. The Lightning penalty killers disposed of that opportunity, also, and finally at 12:38, the referee’s whistle turned and Toronto forward Alexei Ponikarovsky was penalized for goaltender interference.
One power play chance and 38 seconds was all the Lightning needed, however, as Vincent Lecavalier
flipped a rebound of a shot from Cory Murphy over Toronto netminder Curtis Joseph’s pad to put the Lightning up, 1-0. Martin St. Louis
also assisted on the score, Lecavalier’s 29th of the season. Murphy’s assist extended his consecutive game point streak to four.
By the time the buzzer sounded ending the opening stanza, Tampa Bay had cut the shot deficit down to 9-7 and Karri Ramo, starting his seventh consecutive game, was the equal to everything Toronto could generate.
The Lightning power play struck again early in period two when, with Mikhail Grabovski off the ice for tripping, Steven Stamkos
blasted a shot from just inside the blueline at 2:26 that beat Joseph. St. Louis got his second assist of the night on the goal, number 15 for on the season for Stamkos. Lightning goalie Karri Ramo earned his first assist of the season.
Ten seconds later, the Lightning opened the lead to three goals when Matt Pettinger converted a cross-ice pass from Martins Karsums
. His shot from Joseph’s right beat the Toronto netminder across the crease. Pettinger’s fifth score of the season was also assisted by defenseman Lukas Krajicek.
The two goals just 10 seconds apart tied the Tampa Bay franchise record for the fastest two goals on home ice, set just over one year ago on March 11, 2008.
After scoring two goals on two shots in the second period, the energized Lightning continued to buzz the Toronto zone. Pettinger almost scored again as his breakaway shot bounced from post to post before ricocheting clear.
Before the second period ended, however, the Maple Leafs got on the scoreboard when Jason Blake wound his way around the Tampa Bay net and had his wraparound attempt deflect off forward John Mitchell, standing in the goal crease. The goal came with just 24 seconds remaining in the period.
Toronto edged closer at 3:24 of the third period when Jason Blake skated in on the left wing and shot the puck through Ramo’s pads. Blake’s 24th goal of the season brought the Maple Leafs back to within one goal of tying the score, 3-2.
Toronto continued to surge for the next five minutes, blasting ten unanswered shots on the Lightning net. Ramo made several highlight reel saves to preserve the lead, including a point-blank attempt by Benjamin Ondrus from just outside the crease.
But no matter how many acrobatic saves Ramo was called on to perform, he was no match for the barrage of shots that Toronto generated. Eventually, one found the back of the net. Hamilton converted a centering pass to tie the score at 14:29 of the third.
Tampa Bay got their opportunity to end the game in regulation when Phil Oreskovic was called for interference with only 2:46 remaining. The Lightning produced two shots on net, the penalty expired and the game proceeded to a 4-on-4 overtime period.
And what an overtime. Both teams frantically went end-to-end in a display of high-speed hockey. And both teams had plenty of chances to end it.
With 90 seconds remaining, Ramo stopped a blast from Blake from just outside the crease, while at the other end, Lecavalier spun around to collect a loose puck in front of the Toronto net but Joseph made the stop. Ramo made several toe saves and Joseph smothered St. Louis’ wrist shot from the right faceoff circle with two seconds remaining.
And that’s where it ended, until the shootout.
When Stamkos missed the first attempt, Jeff Hamilton, who already had a goal on the night, deked to his backhand and beat Ramo. Next, St. Louis’ patented spinner had an open net but the puck glided off the left goal post. With one chance remaining, Lecavalier cleanly beat Joseph with a backhand shot to tie the shootout. Both teams then exchanged shooters going six men deep into their benches, until John Mitchell finally beat Ramo through the pads to end the battle.
It wasn’t an easy loss for the Lightning to swallow.
“At the end of the day,” Stamkos said, “with a 3-0 lead, you have to find a way to win that game. We fought them off for a bit, but they wanted it more.”
Interim Lightning coach Rick Tocchet agreed:
“Toronto outplayed us the last half of the game,” Tocchet said. “They deserved to win, bottom line. It shows how far our team still needs to go.”
It doesn’t get any easier next game, which is Thursday night, and the potent offense of the Washington Capitals comes to town.
|Three star selections
||MARTIN ST. LOUIS