Steven Stamkos was looking to score a hat trick to get to 500 goals tonight. The Maple Leafs wanted to beat one of the top teams in the league. I wanted to enjoy the first game I was able to watch in December.

Only one of the three was disappointed.

The game is delayed because the linesman can’t get his helmet on. You gotta prepare better, man.

Both teams have a spring in their step to start the game, but the Lightning test the Leafs the most early on.

The Maple Leafs don’t let this go for long, as Michael Bunting and William Nylander team up, but get denied by Vasilevsky. Then Alex Kerfoot is also stonewalled.

It’s a very safe first half of the period for both teams. No one wants to give up a power play to each other, passes aren’t being attacked, taking turns going up and down the ice. Alex Kerfoot gets a long pass across centre ice as the Leafs try to take advantage of the Lightning line changes, but shockingly Kerfoot doesn’t score.

The Leafs control play for a minute of so in the Lighting end, not letting the puck leave. Finally the puck goes up into the net, and we get a break on a TV time out.

The puck gets sent out but the Leafs bring it right back in and we end of in a sequence of the Lightning dumping it out, the Leafs bringing it back, and then Bunting and Matthews come in, Bunting passes, but Matthews can’t get it past Vasilevsky.

With five minutes left in the first period, we get told that the Leafs have held Tampa shotless for ten minutes, which in itself is an achievement. The Lightning start to slow the play down,  try and get the Leafs off their game but it doesn’t work. Bunting, Nylander, and Matthews put in the work to control the puck in the Lightning end and we finally break the tie with Michael Bunting going under the bar from the slot for his 100th point.

1-0 Maple Leafs.

The Lightning finally get a shot on net, but it’s an easy save for Matt Murray.

The Maple Leafs get a power play when Ian Cole trips William Nylander, and Sheldon Keefe starts five forwards on the power play as there are only a few seconds left in the period. The Lighting clear, Cirelli chases Nylander down the ice, Nylander falls, he chirps Cirelli who gives William a poke with his elbow pad after the horn goes. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare checks Marner after the horn. Bunting gets involved, pushing and shoving happens.

Bunting is shoved down the tunnel by a ref, and he’s cut and yelling onto the ice. Corey Perry and Sheldon Keefe exchange words and offsetting minors are handed out to start the second.

Whew. After on it’s 1-0 Toronto.

Oh hey, that guy who shoved Bunting? He knocked Andreas Johnsson out for an entire season.

Great guy to be an official.

Also, didn’t call this.

We start the second period with PE Bellemare and Michael Bunting both off for roughing, but whatever, says Matthews & Marner as they team up to quickly double the score to 2-0.

The Maple Leafs let the Lighting have some puck time but Tampa just wastes it not getting any shots on net and then the Leafs take the puck back to the Lighting end. They’re frustrating the Lighting and Nikita Kucherov boards Michael Bunting, but since we have a goon as an official it’s just called interference.

The Maple Leafs power play gets plenty of time and chances to set up perfect shots from the Lighting penalty kill. This game is entirely tilted in Toronto’s favour. No goal on this power play, but the Leafs get SEVEN shots. We’re midway through the game and shots are 24-5 for the Maple Leafs.

The Maple Leafs have to play defense for the first time all period, and they forget the intricacies of it, but Stamkos is stopped from scoring nonetheless. Timothy Liljegren gets called for hooking. Tampa gets their first power play of the game.

It seems that all Tampa needed to get some confidence and oomph in their game was to be able to play with more players than the Leafs. They still don’t score, Matt Murray doesn’t play like an ice cold goalie, and the Leafs still lead 2-0.

Also, Stamkos really wants to score for Toronto.

The Maple Leafs are committed to winning this game, giving Leafs fans an early Christmas present, and that commitment involves diving for saves.

John Tavares comes in alone on Vasy but holds onto the puck too long trying to wrap it around or tuck it in, or pass to someone who couldn’t keep up. No goal, Vasy saves. A time out just before the period ends.

The Lightning get a bee in their bonnet to end the period and get TWO shots on goal in their flurry of offense. The Leafs manage it, and the period ends with Toronto up 2-0, outshooting the Lighting 28-8.

Sad news after the second. Rasmus Sandin left the ice after he assisted on Matthews’ goal and never came back.

Bah. The Lightning push hard to open the third, they get a draw in the Leafs end, and Vlad Namestnikov shoots, catches his rebound and scores. Leafs still lead 2-1.

We go back to the style of the early first period, with both teams trading skates up and down the ice. We get close to the Leafs scoring again when Pontus Holmberg rings a puck off the post, and Zach Aston-Reese is set up by Joey Anderson.

The Maple Leafs push hard to get a safety goal, making Vasy work hard to keep the puck out of the net. Auston Matthews looks like the squeaks one by but it stays out.

Something I haven’t seen before, a blown icing call. It looked like it was going to be icing but then Vasilevsky comes out of his net which should have waived it off, but it gets whistled. The linesman seems to apologize and we’ll have a centre ice face off.

The Lightning step up their game, and hem the Leafs in their own zone for so long it keeps Brodie and Giordano out for two minute shifts. They’re pushing hard to tie the game and have double their shot total in ten minutes.

The Leafs keep on pushing, Calle Jarnkrok comes in with Marner and Matthews, but he doesn’t pass in time and can’t get the third goal.

Tampa pulls the goalie with two minutes to go and gives Pierre Engvall the chance to get the third goal, which he does.

3-1 Maple Leafs.

The Lightning pull the goalie, and Nylander scores the fourth of the game to seal the deal.

The Leafs easily took this win - aside from some brief flashes of offense from the Lightning - and played a great game as a team tonight. Lots of plays, passing, and celebrations together.

If the Maple Leafs can dominate the Lightning like this....imagine what they could do against the Flyers Thirsday afternoon.

Speaking of, the Maple Leafs next game is Thursday afternoon at 2PM.

I won’t see you there, I’ll be working one of my four jobs. Someone will be here for you, I’m sure.