Tuesday’s game against Toronto at the Air Canada Centre was as much a night of firsts for the Lightning this season, as it was a battle of solid defensive play and strong goaltending.
Tampa Bay’s 2-1 overtime victory marked the Lightning’s first on the road, which was sparked by the game’s opening score which also served as a Lightning first.
After a scoreless first period in which both Antero Niittymaki and Jonas Gustavsson one-upped each other by making a series of spectacular saves, Vincent Lecavalier put back a rebound in an open net after Mattias Ohlund’s shot from the low slot was deflected out in front. Ohlund received a pass from center ice as a result of a Toronto turnover, which allowed the Lightning defenseman to create a chance in Toronto’s defensive zone. After Ohlund’s initial shot aimed for the far post, Lecavalier buried his second goal of the season, which marked the first time that the Bolts’ have scored the game’s initial goal away from the St. Pete Times Forum.
Toronto had multiple chances for the equalizer, but Antero Niittymaki maintained a strong presence in net by smothering each shot and allowing very few rebounds, despite the Maple Leafs having a man-advantage eight times throughout the contest.
Toronto finally broke Niittymaki early in the final period, as Ian White netted a goal on the powerplay that ricocheted off of Lightning defenseman Matt Walker who attempted to block the shot. The puck redirected and found an opening through the five hole, knotting the game at one apiece.
Niittymaki redeemed himself later in the period with just several minutes to play as the Leafs attacked once again on the powerplay, looking to clinch their first win at home. Phil Kessel, in his season and Maple leaf debut, perhaps earned his best chance at scoring the game-winner after harassing the Tampa Bay goaltender all night. Kessel skated down towards the goal with a 2-on-1 advantage, but a strong defensive play by David Hale, followed by an incredible game-saving stop by Niittymaki sent the game into the extra period.
The Lightning received a scare within the first minute of overtime, as Kessel’s shot hit the goal post, but the Bolts recovered and went to work shortly after, as Ryan Malone netted one at 2:21 in the extra stanza to earn the Lightning’s first victory away from home. Niittymaki stopped a season-high 40 of 41 shots and was named the game’s first star.
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