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Toronto Maple Leafs blow three-goal lead, lose 4-3 to Tampa Bay Lightning

Leafs go Back to the Future, lose in 2016 style.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) makes a save from Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde (37) during the second period at Amalie Arena. 
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 Toronto Maple Leafs started the first 40 minutes of the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning and everything was going great. The final 20 minutes were played by the 2016 Leafs and we all know how those games turn out. Leafs lose 4-3.

The Leafs dominated the first two periods of the game and the Lightning looked defeated, but coming into the third, Toronto let their foot off the gas and all of a sudden, Hedman, McDonagh, Kucherov, and Killorn all score in 12 minutes and change, turning the game upside-down.

“We’re going the have some conversations amongst the guys and try to figure out how to not do that again,” said Morgan Rielly after the game on TSN, after being on the ice with Ron Hainsey for three goals against.

“They pushed in the third, we didn’t respond, couldn’t handle it. We weren’t good enough in the third,” quotes head coach Mike Babcock after the game on TSN. “We had good players but we didn’t have enough good players.”

On top of this game ending in the most frustrating fashion, the Leafs also ruined a really good night from one of their longest tenured players. James van Reimsdyk scored two goals in his 600th career game, giving him 198 goals for his career. This man is on fire during the most important time of the season despite being flamed by fans for not being traded all year long and he just got burned by his team on what could have been a special night. What a hot mess.

Let’s get on with it, rip the band-aid as it were.

First Period

Opening matchups for these teams appear to be Mitchell Marner, Patrick Marleau, and Nazem Kadri’s line against Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, and Tyler Johnson, meaning William Nylander, Zach Hyman, and Andreas Johnsson get to play against Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and J.T. Miller. And as is the new tradition, the first shot on goal for the Maple Leafs is off the stick of Andreas Johnsson.

Connor Brown stick-lifts former-Leaf Anton Stralman off the puck in the offensive zone, opening Tyler Bozak up for the first good chance on Andrei Vasilevskiy. Brown nearly pounces on the rebound that Vasilevskiy creates but with a defenseman all over him, he can’t get his stick on the puck.

Josh Leivo nearly sets up his new linemate Tomas Plekanec for a tip in front of the net but Vasilevskiy closes the pads in time. The new-look fourth line with Kasperi Kapanen looks light years better than the Martin-Smith-Soshnikov line we saw for an extended period of time not too long ago. All three forwards are responsible defensively, they can skate, and they all have a track record of putting up points.

1-0

James van Reimsdyk scores again! JVR nearly scores off the rush when his shot beat Vasilevskiy but not Mikhail Sergachev. The Leafs maintain the pressure and get the puck back to Travis Dermott at the point. He goes across the blueline to his partner Connor Carrick who steps up before passing the Mitch Marner. Wait, why is Mitch Marner on the ice? Apparently, the Leafs drew a penalty during the scrum seconds earlier.

At this point the Leafs almost look like they have a power play with Marner handling the puck at the half-wall and JVR wide open at the top of the crease. Mitch does the #Mitch-Thing and JVR puts the puck past the Lightning goalie, giving the Leafs an early lead.

After a good solo effort by Leivo from the side of the net, he and Ryan Callahan get into a shoving/punching match in the corner. Both go to the box for two roughing minutes. During the 4-on-4 action, Marner nearly finishes off a wrap-around chance but can’t hook the puck back towards the net. The puck squirts out in front but no one was home to take advantage.

As the period comes to a close, Kucherov tries to steal the puck from Morgan Rielly but instead holds him illegally, sending the Leafs defenseman to the ice. With 30 seconds left in the period, Toronto gets a chance on the power play. JVR nearly capitalizes on a centering pass from Bozak in front of the net with zero seconds left, but Vasilevskiy holds the score at 1-0.

After One

For a team on the road against the top team in their division, the Maple Leafs did a great job against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first period. They took the majority of the shots (9-6), shot attempts (15-10), and scoring chances (11-7). Despite trailing in high-danger scoring chances (3-5), the Leafs have looked more dangerous all game, and wouldn’t you know it, they lead in the goals department.

*All stats are 5v5 via Natural Stat Trick.

Second Period

The Leafs start the second period with 1:32 remaining on the power play given by Kucherov. On the other side, the Lightning start the frame without their top penalty-killer Callahan, who left the game after his altercation with Leivo.

2-0

The Leafs start moving the puck all around the ice on the power play. Kadri to Bozak to Rielly to Marner to Kadri via a tip in the high slot. After retrieving a choppy centering pass from Bozak, JVR shows off his elite hands (Hi, Species1967) and hits the top corner of the net from less that four feet out.

Connor Brown chases Braydon Coburn around the back of the net but gets too much contact on the hands. Brown goes to the box for hooking. With the Leafs essentially 2-for-2 on the power play tonight (JVR’s first goal was on a delayed call), this is the first chance to see the league’s second best power play in the league. The Leafs are fourth, by the way.

Mikahil Sergachev steps up for a blast from the top of the slot, but Frederik Andersen parries the shot away. The Lightning’s best chance comes off the stick off a wide open Yanni Gourde at the far post but he can’t get his stick in the right orientation to direct it on net. The Leafs bent but did not break on the kill so they earn a solid 34 thumbs up from me.

The two PK groups, if anyone wants to know, have been Hyman, Kapanen, Rielly, Hainsey, also known as the “Kid’s and Dad group.” The second team of Marleau, Plekanec, Roman Polak, and Hainsey has an average age of about 58-years-old so they get to be known as the “Pension Plan Pairs”.

Rookie Anthony Cirelli (where do they find these guys??) has had a few good chances for the Lightning while skating as the fourth-line center. Cirelli likes to take the puck hard to the net, cause chaos, and hopefully score a dirty goal. He’s done this twice so far tonight and I will say it has been effective.

3-0

Brayden Point tries to do it all on his own but can’t even get into the offensive zone. The Nylander line goes back the other way and starts a cycle in the Tampa Bay Zone. Right winger Hyman sees an opening as he circles to the slot and snipes — yes, you read that right — on Vasilevskiy, his 14th of the season.

3-1

Kadri and Marleau get mixed up in the high slot against a fourth-line shift that is without Ryan Callahan, but featuring Steven Stamkos. Adam Erne feeds Stamkos for a shot, but he fakes everyone on the ice and passes to Hedman who beats Andersen for the first time tonight.

After Two

The Leafs have been killing it on the road so far tonight. They have increased their lead from 1-0 to 3-1 on the backs of power play specialist JVR (not surprising) and offensive sniper Zach Hyman (a little more surprising). The Lightning were able to tie the Leafs in shot attempts for that period (but still lead in the game 30-25). The Bolts did come out in front in shots (6-11), but not scoring chances (11-9).

In all situations after two periods, the shot metrics are: shots 24-18, attempts 45-30, scoring chances 33-19.

For a team the Leafs probably will have to face at some point in the playoffs, the fact that they have not felt out of control of the game at all against the Lightning is a wonderful development.

Third Period

3-2

New-comer Ryan McDonagh catches the Leafs on a change to bring the game back to a one-goal affair. Killorn and Hyman get tied up, allowing Yanni Gourde to puck up the puck and walk into the zone. Gardiner and Polak are forced to back into their own zone, opening up the entire slot for McDonagh to step into and wire a shot past Andersen.

3-3

Uh oh. Nikita Kucherov ties the game from a bad angle on lucky shot that deflects off the heel of Rielly in front. the goal is unassisted and all of a sudden the game is tied.

3-4

Alex Killorn brings the Lightning all the way back from a three-goal deficit to a one-goal lead. Yanni Gourde kicks the puck out from the corner to the middle of the ice to Cirelli. Cirelli immediately pushes the puck to a charging Killorn in the slot, who doesn’t miss.

Andreas Johnsson puts his new team on his back and tries to get the Leafs turned in the right direction. First step, he draws a tripping penalty on penalty killer Anthony Cirelli.

The clock ticks down and the Leafs are getting stymied at every turn. Babcock pulls Freddy and the skaters nearly give up a empty-net goal. The JVR group finally gets settled in the offensive zone with 1:20 left in the game but still can’t get anything going.

The buzzer goes, Leafs lose.