TORONTO — Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas was convinced he was making the right play; a quick backhand pass to partner Matt Carle in the Tampa Bay zone.
But forechecking Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak anticipated the play, intercepted the pass and began a sequence that led to James van Riemsdyk's goal with 4:03 left in the third period that gave Toronto a 3-2 victory Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre.
"A grave error," coach Jon Cooper said.
"Obviously, I could have done a lot of things different," Gudas said, "but I thought that was the best decision at that point. Too bad it didn't work. Nothing I can do about it now."
Except wonder how Tampa Bay (31-17-5), which lost its three-game winning streak, was even in the predicament in the first place.
The Lightning played a pretty good road game. It had a 42-26 shot advantage, got second-period goals from Carle and Mark Barberio to overcome a two-goal deficit and was perfect in three shorthanded situations while outshooting the league's No. 1 home power play 5-3.
But Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier was outstanding — "A difference-maker," Barberio said — with 40 saves, including a game-saving, do-the-split, left-leg save on Marty St. Louis' one-timer with 3:17 left.
"I read the blade good," Bernier said. "I had the pad there, but he didn't get (the puck) up, so I guess I got lucky, too."
But there also was this: "I don't know how many two-on-ones we had but I bet we had four or five, and we didn't get a shot on most of them," Cooper said. "And I don't know how many posts we hit but there were a bunch."
Four or five, Barberio estimated, including at least three in three minutes of the second period, two in 17 seconds during a power play.
"A couple of inches inside, maybe it's a different game," Barberio said.
When teams don't capitalize on chances, errors are magnified, such as Barberio's neutral-zone giveaway that led to the first of Nazem Kadri's two second-period goals that put Toronto — five points behind the Lightning in the Atlantic Division — ahead 2-0.
Then there was Gudas' miscue.
"I was trying to get the puck to (Carle)," he said. "(Bozak) stopped the puck. They were on a good forecheck, so they made a good play there."
With Bozak feeding the trailing Phil Kessel who passed to the slot to van Riemsdyk who beat goalie Ben Bishop high to the glove side.
"You can't hang your head about this," Cooper said. "I'm sure (Gudas) is upset at what happened. But how did it get to that point?"
We sure know how it ended.
First Period—None. Penalties—Crombeen, TB (high-sticking), 2:50; Johnson, TB (hooking), 8:01; Kucherov, TB (holding), 18:29.
Second Period—1, Toronto, Kadri 13, 1:49. 2, Toronto, Kadri 14 (Lupul, Gunnarsson), 9:47. 3, Tampa Bay, Carle 2 (Palat, Kucherov), 13:13. 4, Tampa Bay, Barberio 4 (Palat, Crombeen), 17:12. Penalties—Holland, Tor (holding), 10:47; Gunnarsson, Tor (hooking), 14:14; Phaneuf, Tor (holding), 20:00.
Third Period—5, Toronto, van Riemsdyk 21 (Kessel, Bozak), 15:57. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 11-18-13—42. Toronto 8-8-10—26. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 3; Toronto 0 of 3. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Bishop 26-7-4 (26 shots-23 saves). Toronto, Bernier 18-15-5 (42-40). A—19,475 (18,819). T—2:38. Referees—Mike Hasenfratz, Dean Morton. Linesmen—David Brisebois, Scott Driscoll.