Win or lose (but mostly win), I enjoy match-ups between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning. In recent years, they've been wide-open, high-scoring affairs, and, if I'm being honest, it's refreshing to see a little pond hockey being played every now and then.
Nevermind that Jonas Gustavsson only posted an .875 on the evening. He was the best goalie in this game.
I dislike the narrative implications of a 'statement game', but the Leafs really needed to come back with a win to keep themselves in the playoff hunt. Beating the Lightning, who are in contention for the final playoff seed, is important.
In other incredible news, the Leafs penalty kill was - get this - NOT SCORED ON. The Lightning went 0/5 on the powerplay, and that's with Steven Stamkos being alive and healthy. Oh, and did I mention that the Leafs had to kill off a 5-on-3? Ron Wilson's rope tricks seem to have had their desired effects, and whatever disagreements Dion Phaneuf had with coaches at practice seem to have been at least productive. Let's hope this continues.
Joffrey Lupul had a four-point game, and Dion Phaneuf, Mikhail Grabovski, Tim Connolly, and Matt Frattin all picked up a pair of points each. Oh, and that lazy, floating, streaky-as-all-get-out Phil Kessel picked up a goal too. What a slump that Kessel is in. I mean, he's been in a slump for almost two hours as a write this!
This game also had plenty of drama, as Steve Downie did his best to play the part of 'cheesy, early-90's WWF skeezebag', but he ruined the performance by being too afraid to actually fight Keith Aulie.
Carl Gunnarsson lead the Leafs in ice time with 25:45 of total ice time. Phaneuf and Jake Gardiner tied for second with 25:06, while Luke Schenn was handed only 11:28, the third-least on the team, behind only Matt Frattin and Matthew Lombardi, who played his first game back since coming back off an arm injury.
Gunnarsson, incidentally, has had a really wonderful first half of the season, and has emerged as one the Leafs' top defenders. I'd like to think that it's becoming less and less likely that he will act as trade bait come deadline time.