Just about the only thing keeping the Tampa Bay Lightning from a second straight victory was a strong performance by Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer.
Martin St. Louis had a goal, and the Lightning held an advantage in shots after 60 minutes, but in a 3-1 loss to Toronto at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Thursday night.
“Their goalie played outstanding,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “We had our chances, but just couldn’t score.”
Tampa Bay had no lack of scoring opportunities, including four power-play chances during which the Lightning had nine shots on goal.
Reimer was equal to the task, however, as he made a number of key saves including a diving cross-crease stop to deny Ryan Malone midway through the third period. He also denied good chances from Nate Thompson and Brett Connolly in the first before coming up with another big stop on Steven Stamkos in the middle frame.
Tampa Bay finally got on the board at 19:34 of the final period when St. Louis spoiled Reimer’s bid for a seventh career shutout.
The Maple Leafs net minder finished the night with 34 saves to record his first win since Feb. 15, helping his team snap a five-game losing streak in the process.
“When you look at our goalie, he was our best player,” Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle said.
John-Michael Liles, Joey Crabb and Jake Gardiner each had goals for Toronto, which has now gone just 3-13-2 in its past 18 games.
The Maple Leafs, however, have now taken each of the three meetings this season against Tampa Bay, outscoring the Lightning by a combined score of 17-5. Toronto also improved to 2-4-1 since Carlyle took over head-coaching duties for Ron Wilson on Mar. 2.
Dustin Tokarski, who just two days earlier earned his first career NHL win, allowed three goals on 10 shots before being relieved by Dwayne Roloson in the second period.
Liles opened the scoring after completing a nice passing play with Mikhail Grabovski at 1:09 of the first while on the power play. Liles fed Grabovski the puck at the side of the net before entering the slot, getting a return feed and wristing one past Tokarski to the far post.
Crabb then doubled the score just 3:27 into the second after taking a cross-crease pass from Clarke MacArthur and one-timing it just inside the post to give Toronto a 2-0 lead.
“When you get behind by a couple of goals, it’s tough,” Lightning forward Tom Pyatt said. “But there’s still time left and you’ve got to find a way to turn it around.”
The Maple Leafs went up 3-0 when Gardiner banked a wrist shot off the inside of Tokarski’s pad and into the net after he maneuvered around the reach of a sprawled-out Victor Hedman at 12:28.
Matthew Lombardi assisted on both second-period goals for the Maple Leafs, who hadn't won since Mar. 3.