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Leafs take down Bolts, win first two-in-a-row since February

Leafs' year-ending "playoff series" continues with second win against Atlantic division rivals.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Leafs were challenged by Horachek to play their last seven games as if they were a seven-game playoff series, and with tonight's win it was clear that the players took his words to heart. The 'series' began with the Leafs' win against the Senators this past Sunday, and continued tonight as the Leafs owned the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-1.

This is the first time since February 21st and 26th (against Winnipeg and Philadelphia) that the Leafs have won two games in a row. The Leafs also scored the initial goal for the first time in ten games. The Bolts played the second game of a back-to-back, expending energy yesterday to clinch a playoff berth and sweep their series against the Montreal Canadiens, but also losing core parts of their team, D Victor Hedman and F Tyler Johnson, to injury.

Two goals in the first period created a hole that the Bolts couldn't dig their way out of, one at 8:53 from Nazem Kadri with assists by Joakim Lindstrom and TJ Brennan, and one at the twelve-minute mark of the frame (the game-winner) unassisted from David Booth.

The Kadri goal was on a beautifully choreographed power play, with sharp passes through an off-kilter Bolts PK unit who were missing two important pieces (Johnson and Hedman). The puck went from Brennan to Lindstrom, who snapped it from the circle to find the net via Kadri's tip-in.

The game-winning goal from Booth was a sharp-angled snap shot that slid under the stick of AHL-call-up Slater Koekkoek to beat Andrei Vasilevskiy glove side. (Edit: In the cold light of day I looked at this goal and it was a soft one. Vasy... :( )

The Bolts scored in the last few minutes of the first on a power play goal, their second in two games, with Ryan Callahan sending a wrist shot past James Reimer, assisted by Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov. Any momentum from this goal was lost in the scoreless second, and totally iced by Morgan Rielly's goal (with assists from Kadri and Jake Gardiner) that came 24 seconds into the third.

Tired or not, the Bolts' possession game remained strong, with Reimer saving an impressive 40 of 41 shots and earning a .976 SV% on the night for a well-deserved first star of the game. Vasilevskiy saved 25 of 28 shots.

This was a strange loss for the Bolts. Had the Bolts won tonight, they would've leapfrogged the Canadiens by a point to win first in the Atlantic. Had the Bolts won and the Rangers lost, the Bolts would've been first in the East. Tonight, that was not to be.

The Toronto Maple Leafs twitter was kind enough to Vine the three goals, so here they are: