TAMPA — With the Lightning going through a difficult stretch of 15 of 21 games on the road, coach Guy Boucher talked about "just trying to get out of this jungle alive for the next month."
Center Steven Stamkos said a big key to that is taking advantage of the few opportunities at home, and Tampa Bay showed that urgency in a 4-0 win over the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, snapping a three-game losing streak in front of an announced crowd of 16,791 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Stamkos said the first period, in which the Lightning (8-4-2) scored three goals, was arguably its best of the season and was much needed coming off a 1-2-1 West Coast trip.
"That great start set the tone for the whole game," Stamkos said. "It was a big win for us to get that confidence back and forget about that road trip."
Stamkos was the offensive star, scoring two goals to give him a league-leading 13. The Lightning grabbed the momentum by killing off a Toronto five-on-three power play in the first four minutes, and Stamkos gave it the lead for good with a power-play goal about nine minutes in.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson said Stamkos has the "best shot in hockey right now," and the center showed it by blasting a one-timer from the left circle.
"We could see that slapshot coming three passes before it actually came," Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn said. "He probably scored 30 (goals) off it last year, but it's a tough one to stop."
That was more than enough support for goalie Dan Ellis, who got his second shutout in his past three starts by making 28 saves, including 13 in a second period in which the Leafs (5-6-3) appeared to outplay the Lightning.
"In the second period, (Ellis) was huge," Stamkos said. "We had a little bit of a letdown; they came out a lot harder in the second after the first.
"(Ellis) keeps impressing us even more, his rebound control is amazing, his composure in there. He played a solid game for us, which we needed."
Said Wilson: "We made (Ellis) look like an all-star."
The Lightning also got a great hustle goal from Nate Thompson and a big boost in the return of center Dominic Moore, who scored after missing the past five games with a groin injury.
Tampa Bay, hampered by injuries and illnesses on its West Coast trip, appears to be getting healthier as it heads out on the road again today, with back-to-back matchups against Washington and Pittsburgh on Thursday and Friday.
"This is just the beginning for us to turn things around," Ellis said. "We take a lot of pride in saying we want to be No. 1; we want to be the best team in the league. And to do that, you have to continue to win those difficult games."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 12 (St. Louis, Lecavalier), 11:10 (pp). 2, Tampa Bay, Thompson 1 (Lundin, Tyrell), 11:39. 3, Tampa Bay, Moore 5 (R.Jones, Malone), 19:13. Penalties—Stamkos, TB (goaltender interference), :56; Thompson, TB (tripping), 2:08; Holzer, Tor (hooking), 10:20; Ohlund, TB (hooking), 14:51.
Second Period—None. Penalties—Brown, Tor, major (fighting), 1:08; Thompson, TB, major (fighting), 1:08; MacArthur, Tor (interference), 11:21; Hedman, TB (holding), 13:07.
Third Period—4, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 13 (Hall, Ohlund), 5:46. Penalties—Moore, TB (tripping), 13:14. Shots on Goal—Toronto 9-13-6—28. Tampa Bay 14-7-4—25. Power-play opportunities—Toronto 0 of 5; Tampa Bay 1 of 2. Goalies—Toronto, Giguere 4-4-2 (25 shots-21 saves). Tampa Bay, Ellis 4-2-2 (28-28). A—16,791 (19,758).