The Leafs headed to Amalie Arena to take on the 24-7-1 Tampa Bay Lighting tonight, and this figured to be a measure-stick game. A Leafs loss would mean millions of “the Leafs will never win in the playoffs!” rants, while a Leafs win would help us all forget about their disastrous game against Boston. Andrei Vasilevskiy returned to action for the first time since November 10th, while Zach Hyman remained out of Toronto’s lineup due to a suspension.

First Period

Notable Moments

19:01- Ron Hainsey’s stretch pass finds Andreas Johnsson, and Kasperi Kapanen hits the crossbar on the resulting two-on-one.

16:41- Following an icing call, Jon Cooper gets Stamkos, Gourde, and Palat out against Toronto’s fourth line and third pairing. The Lightning spend considerable time in Toronto’s end, but cannot beat Andersen.

14:34- Kapanen’s speed helps him to steal the puck from Hedman, and Rielly gets a point shot as a result. Kucherov recovers the rebound, and sends a perfect cross-ice pass to Kapanen in the slot. Kapanen makes no mistake:

Toronto 1, Tampa Bay 0

13:04- Nazem Kadri gets hit in the mouth with Cedric Paquette’s stick, and the Leafs have this game’s first powerplay.

13:03- The Leafs immediately forget that they are the team on the powerplay.

11:40- William Nylander turns the puck over, and Anthony Cirelli is gifted a short-handed breakaway. He beats a sprawled out Andersen to tie the game at 1:

Toronto 1, Tampa Bay 1

11:19- Kadri picks up a loose puck in the slot, and his the crossbar for a NHL-leading 1,000,000th time.

8:30- A strong shift from the Tavares creates a few scoring chances for Toronto, but no one can beat Vasilevskiy. The Lightning respond with a couple of chances of their own, and this game is being played at a mile per minute.

7:30- Vasilevskiy robs Auston Matthews of a goal from the slot.

5:39- Travis Dermott heads to the penalty box after slashing Gourde.

3:39- The Leafs kill off the penalty without giving up a single shot.

1:30- Connor Brown makes a nice pass to Tavares, and Vasilevskiy makes a highlight reel save to keep the game tied.

1:25- Gourde sends the puck out of play, and the Leafs head to their second powerplay of the night.

0:00- The period ends with a 1-1 tie, as the Leafs couldn’t get much going during the start of their powerplay.

First Period Thoughts

The Leafs outshot the Lightning 10-7 in this period, and it certainly felt like they deserved to be ahead on the scoreboard. Vasilevskiy looked like a candidate to win the Vezina, rather than a goalie who hadn’t seen game action in over a month.

The Tavares line was off to a great start, and the Matthews group also looked dangerous. Kadri’s line was pretty invisible, while the Gauthier line was getting crushed in their limited minutes.

Toronto 1, Tampa Bay 1 after one.

Second Period

Notable Moments

19:23- With the powerplay about to expire, Rielly decides not to pass to a wide-open Marner, and instead throws the puck into a pile of skates in front of the net. Gourde is nearly sent on a breakaway as a result, but the stretch pass missed him.

16:05- Gourde steals the puck from Kadri, and Callahan is quickly gifted the puck with a wide-open net. Somehow, he can’t capitalize, but Kadri takes a penalty for closing his hand on the puck.

14:29- Andersen appears to make a nice glove save on a one-timer from Nikita Kucherov, but after video review, it is deemed that the puck crossed the goal line in the process:

Tampa Bay 2, Toronto 1

13:28- Alex Killorn takes a dumb interference penalty by hauling Kadri down.

13:27- Cirelli loses his stick on the faceoff, and the Leafs have 26 seconds of offensive zone time, but cannot beat Vasilevskiy.

12:55- Marner makes a video game type of pass to Matthews, but it does not lead to a goal.

11:55- Kadri hits cross-bar for a league leading 1,000,001st time.

11:28- The Leafs fail to score on the man-advantage, despite generating chance after chance. The first unit was on the ice for the full two minutes, and they looked like the best powerplay unit in the league. Vasilevskiy just seems to have Toronto’s number tonight.

11:16- Vasilevekiy finally stops play, and Kadri and Tavares take on five Lightning players in an ensuing scrum. Kadri heads to the penalty box, but the Leafs head to another powerplay.

9:53- With Kapanen in the penalty box, Kapanen gets an opportunity to play on the first unit, but he trips Stamkos to end Toronto’s powerplay. Tampa has about 1:20 of powerplay time after 4-on-4 play comes to an end.

8:25- Miller has a partial breakaway and dekes out Andersen, but he just can’t control the puck to find the back of the net.

7:53- The Leafs kill off the penalty, but not without surrendering a couple of high-danger chances.

6:48- Girardi sends the puck out of play, and Toronto is handed yet another powerplay.

5:48- Toronto’s second unit completely wastes the first minute of the powerplay with some dreadful play.

4:48- The Lightning kill off the penalty without giving up any dangerous scoring chances.

0:35- Rielly and Marleau are a bit weak on the puck in the neutral zone, and Killorn makes a perfect backhand shot to beat Andersen:

Tampa Bay 3, Toronto 1, even though the Leafs were ahead 33-18 on the shot clock.

0:01- After Babcock sent out his fourth-line and third-pairing for the final shift of the period, Cooper countered with Kucherov’s line. Here’s what happened:

Second Period Thoughts

I have no idea how the Leafs were down by three goals after two. Vasilevskiy is playing one of his best games of the season, and the Leafs just can’t catch a break. Toronto’s top two lines both looked strong, and William Nylander played well this period. Can Kadri stop hitting the damn post?

Tampa Bay 4, Toronto 1 after two. The Leafs deserved far better.

Third Period

Notable Moments

18:00-  Vasilevskiy makes an unbelievable save on Marleau. This is getting ridiculous. The Leafs simply cannot buy a goal:

17:00- Toronto’s fourth line gets hemmed in their own zone for the hundredth time tonight.

11:40- Tavares makes a nice pass to Brown on a set face-off play, but Vasilevskiy chooses not to allow a goal.

10:33- Another powerplay for Toronto, as Stamkos gets called for interference.

8:33- The powerplay comes to an end, with Tavares missing a good scoring chance by hitting the side of the net. The Lightning have 0 shots on goal over the last 11 minutes.

6:27- Hedman’s slapshot is Tampa’s first shot in over 13 minutes.

Final Thoughts

There’s nothing left to say except: how on earth did the Leafs lose 4-1? The Leafs will now head to Sunrise, Florida to take on the Panthers on Saturday. It’s tough to be disappointed with Toronto’s effort tonight. This was one of their better performances of the season.

Final Score: Tampa Bay 4, Toronto 1.