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Lightning gets some puck, makes some luck in win over Maple Leafs

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) celebrates with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) after their victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in NHL hockey game action in Toronto on Monday, March 11, 2019. [Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via AP]
Published Mar. 12

TORONTO—Is it better to be lucky or good? The Lightning was both on Monday night. Of the six goals, Tampa Bay scored four on some kind of flukey bounce.

"That's kind of what happens at the end of the season and in the playoffs," Tyler Johnson said after the 6-2 win over Toronto. "A lot of times they are the garbage goals that go in. So we have to try to play more hockey that way."

First, Tyler Johnson's shot deflected off Frederik Andersen's glove to put the Lightning on the board midway through the first period. Mikhail Sergachev's shot from the point deflected off Anthony Cirelli and then through traffic late in the first period. Cirelli wasn't even sure if the puck hit his leg or his stick.

In the second period, Johnson scored when Ryan McDonagh's rebound went off Point's skate in midair and then Johnson tapped it in. Then Ondrej Palat lept in the air and deflected Braydon Coburn's shot.

That's a lot of puck luck on the Lightning's side.

"You can look at it as flukey, but we're in the right spot for those to be able to happen," Johnson said.

The Lightning, like most hockey teams, would say the team earned its bounces. Being good led to being lucky, so to speak.

If players weren't in position, those goals wouldn't have happened. Cirelli was in his spot in the slot. Johnson and Point followed the puck to the net for it to hit Point's skate and then Johnson to score. Palat was trying to get out of the way of Coburn's shot, but there's an exception to every rule.

"We're getting our opportunities, getting our shots on net and guys are getting in front," Johnson said. "Those are happens when you do.

That's the truth to the cliché of getting pucks to the net. That's why teams station forwards at the net front. Tipped shots account for a lot of goals as goaltenders get better.

On Monday, there were fewer skilled, shot for tips, kind of goals, but that's only part of those players' jobs. The rest is to be there for bounces. Defensemen shoot from the point to score, but also just to put the puck near where it needs to end up and then count on a forward to finish.

"That's what you're going to need to do when goals are at a premium when you play in the playoffs," coach Jon Cooper said. "Those are some of the ones you need. We got a bunch of them, but I thought we earned our breaks going there."

They were flukey goals but it wasn't a flukey win. The Lightning also outplayed Toronto. The Maple Leafs had a few good moments, like Auston Matthews' goal and the move he made on Brayden Point to get to the net, but for the most part this was Tampa Bay's game.

The Lightning put 41 shots on the Leafs' two goaltenders and only allowed 26 itself. Andrei Vasilevskiy didn't have to steal anything this time. He didn't even have to make flashy saves.

The Toronto team that has given Tampa Bay a hard time in two games back at Amalie Arena didn't show up, coming off a Western Canada trip. The Lightning took advantage and put together a complete game.

"It was a great overall game," Victor Hedman said. "We know we have that strength: We have four lines that can score goals. Everyone knows their roles and what to do."

He added these games are good ones for players to keep in the back of their minds, to remember this is how good the Lightning is when it plays "the right way."

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