Martin St. Louis took advantage of the league’s most porous defense.
Unfortunately for the Maple Leafs, so did his teammates.
St. Louis netted the game-winning power play goal, the second of two in a span of nine minutes, with 9.7 seconds remaining in overtime as the Lightning handed Toronto its 11th loss out of its last 13 on the road with a 3-2 overtime victory.
The goal with the man advantage moved St. Louis into a tie for a league-best 24 points on the power play.
The deciding mark came just moments after Ryan Malone evened things up with the man advantage at 16:11 in the third period.
“It’s a huge win,” St. Louis said. “I thought we stayed with it, we had some better moments than others, but I thought we battled, and when the game was on the line, I thought we made plays to get us back in the game and win the game. Sometimes, especially this time of year, it’s all about results.”
Steven Stamkos tied a career-high, scoring a goal and adding a pair of assists for the Lightning, who won for the second time in their last three. Vincent Lecavalier also extended his season-high points streak to six games with three helpers.
Toronto has allowed 16 goals in the first four games of its current road trip, contributing to its league-worst mark of 180 allowed this season.
“We went at them pretty hard,” Tampa Bay head coach Rick Tocchet said. “It could have went either way. It was one of those games of who’s going to get the last shot type of thing. We responded and Marty [St. Louis] scored a great goal for us. We needed that.”
Ian White opened scoring at 7:05 in the second period on the power play to put Toronto up 1-0, but Stamkos evened things up with a blast from the left circle approximately five minutes later with his 26th goal of the season.
Matt Stajan gave the Leafs a one-goal advantage on the power play at 9:08 in the third period, slipping one past goaltender Antero Niittymaki.
Coming off a season-high 40 saves against Toronto on Nov. 3, the Lightning net minder stopped 20 of 22 shots in the game, which was the fifth time in the last seven meetings between the two clubs that the final result has been decided by just one goal.
Despite killing five of seven penalties, two mistakes within the final five minutes proved costly for the Leafs.
Malone scored the game-tying power play goal 16:11 into regulation, forcing the contest into the extra session.
“We took two bad penalties. One they scored on and the other they possibly gained some momentum towards the end so we were back on our heels heading into the overtime period,” Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson said. “They got some momentum and headed into the overtime period that way. They felt good about themselves and we didn’t.”
The victory signaled the third time in the last four games against a Northeast division opponent in which Tampa Bay has gone unbeaten in regulation.
“I think we still haven’t played our best hockey,” Malone said. “The important thing right now is getting the two points. We’ll definitely take it, but to play together for a full 60 minutes as a playoff team in here, we have to realize that. We have to bring that every night and expect that every night as well.”
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