A few routine saves and some secondary scoring proved to be just the right combination to get the Tampa Bay Lightning back on track.
In the midst of a stretch in which the club had scored no more than two goals in seven of its last nine games, Tampa Bay scored early and often in a 6-2 win to finish off a four-game season series sweep of the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday night at the Air Canada Centre.
“We’ve been emphasizing this type of play for the last three games,” assistant coach Wayne Fleming said. “Our plan was to be direct to the net and stronger on the puck.”
Mattias Ritola notched a career-high two goals, Teddy Purcell had three assists and Dwayne Roloson turned in 30 saves for the Lightning, who climbed to within three points of the Washington Capitals in the Southeast Division, while also snapping a two-game winless skid.
With the Lightning holding on to a one-goal lead late in the second period, Vincent Lecavalier’s 18th of the season brought the score to 4-2 and pulled the Lightning away as Tampa Bay went on to score twice more before the final horn. The Lightning captain battled along the right boards before freeing up the puck and getting it to Simon Gagne, whose shot on Toronto goaltender James Reimer came loose out in front before Lecavalier batted in the rebound at 18:53.
Dominic Moore and Mike Lundin added third-period tallies for Tampa Bay, whose perfect record in four games this season against Toronto marked a first in franchise history. Lundin’s goal was his first of the season and first in 63 games, last scoring a goal in a 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in March of last season.
Toronto, meanwhile, dropped its fourth game in its last five after collecting its only win during the stretch on Saturday with a 4-3 win against Buffalo.
Dion Phaneuf and Nikolai Kulemin had goals for the Maple Leafs, while Reimer made 24 saves.
“We didn’t get pucks on and get enough shots through,” Maple Leafs forward Mike Brown said. “We did that a little bit, but we needed to step it up.”
Purcell made a terrific pass through the slot to find Nate Thompson coming off the bench and streaking through the zone before opening the scoring at 10:06 of the first with a wrist shot high over the glove of Reimer.
“Teddy saw me the whole way,” Thompson said. “The scouting report on the goalie says to shoot high, and that’s what I did.”
Phaneuf tied it after taking a pass out of the zone and skating through the slot before wristing one beneath the pad of Roloson at 5:11.
Reimer was appearing in his 14th straight game and has almost single-handedly resuscitated the Leafs' playoff hopes. Toronto head coach Ron Wilson believes the rookie has given the team its best stretch of goaltending since he was hired in June 2008.
“Probably for sure, yeah,” Wilson said. “A long stretch like this, you’re always like, ‘Is tonight the night where he’s going to wear down a little bit?’
“He’s had a couple of games where he wasn’t as sharp as he’s been, but you can't expect the goalie to be perfect every night.”
Tampa Bay went up 3-1 on a pair of goals by Ritola just 3:08 apart.
The Lightning’s six goals were the most since an 8-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes Feb. 23.
Kulemin brought the Maple Leafs back within one when he beat Roloson stick side to finish off a 2-on-1 rush at 14:37 of the second period before Tampa Bay went on to add three more goals and sealed the win.
The 41-year-old Roloson is 3-0-0 against the Leafs this season and holds an impressive 6-1-0 record versus Toronto since the 2008-09 season.
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