Lightning-Maple Leafs: Observations from Tampa Bay’s 6-2 win

Two Lightning players were just one goal away from a hat trick.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn (55) watches as Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) leaps to make a stop against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third-period NHL hockey game action in Toronto on Monday, March 11, 2019. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via AP)
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn (55) watches as Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) leaps to make a stop against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third-period NHL hockey game action in Toronto on Monday, March 11, 2019. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via AP)
Published March 12

TAMPA – Four Toronto players headed toward the bench late in the second period for a line change as Yanni Gourde took the puck behind the Maple Leafs’ net, leaving defenseman Morgan Reilly to defend the home ice on his own.

Three Lightning players attacked the zone as Gourde made a quick pass up the middle to Victor Hedman.

The Lightning defenseman made a quick adjustment as he tossed the puck to his right, just outside the crease and into the sweet spot for Cedric Paquette, who helped the Lightning notch a four-goal lead just before the end of the second period with a short-handed goal.

It was this kind of play that propelled Tampa Bay to a 6-2 win over the Maple Leafs in Toronto Monday night.

“It’s nice to see when these guys are working their tail off and doing all the right things that they get rewarded,” coach Jon Cooper said. “It’s not like he’s a guy (Paquette) that plays 20 minutes a night, and he plays in all those situations in a grinding role and he kills penalties for us and for somebody like him to get two goals tonight, the guys on the bench were pretty fired up.”

Here are some odds and ends from Tampa Bay’s 6-2 win:

Defense helps the offense. In the last six games Lightning defensemen have logged seven goals and 22 assists (with seven of those assists coming from the Toronto matchup). With Monday night’s win, the Lightning move to a 40-5-1 record on the season when at least two points are recorded by defensemen. All but one blue-liner logged a point on Monday (Erik Černák). Braydon Coburn led the way for the defensemen (and the roster) with the most shots on goal (six), one hitting the post.

You get a point, you get a point, you get a point! More than half of the Lightning’s roster got on the point log Monday night with 13 different players logging a point in the 6-2 win and five players had multi-point games. It’s the first time 13 players have logged a point in the same game all season.

Johnson with the (almost) hat trick. Johnson notched his 23rd and 24th goals on the season with the win on Monday. He finished the night with two goals, two points and five shots. It was Johnson’s third two-goal game of the season and first one since Dec. 22 at Edmonton.

[ Up Next: at Detroit, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Little Caesars Arena | TV/Radio: Fox Sports Sun, FS-D; AM-970 ]

Pauquette with the (almost) hat trick, too. Paquette logged his second goal of the night early in the third period, though his second goal wasn’t as easy as his first one. His 12th goal on the season came off a pass from Gourde, again, and Jan Rutta. It was Paquette’s first two-goal game all season and first one in almost a year since playing at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.

Rutta logs first points as a Bolt. Rutta notched his first two points as a Bolt Monday night during the Toronto matchup. His first assist came on Ondřej Palát’s goal and his second came on Cedric Paquette’s second goal of the night. It was only Rutta’s second time in the Lightning lineup on Monday with his first happening on Saturday at home against the Red Wings.

Point loses the race. It’s not too often the Lightning’s shut-down center gets beat on a play, but it happened Monday night as Auston Matthews beat Brayden Point to put the Maple Leafs on the board with a goal about halfway through the second period. Matthews carried the puck down the ice until he was about to hit the tip of the right faceoff circle. He swiped the puck from his left to his right, besting Point on the move and forcing an awkward turnaround attempt from the center. Matthews helped his team get on the board smoothly.

Cirelli and Palát on the board. The Lightning rookie and veteran, respectively, notched two goals of their own to help the team come up 4-0 in Toronto on Monday. Mikhail Sergachev wristed a shot from the blueline that Cirelli deflected into the goal. Palát deflected a goal off a slapper shot from Coburn which was actually helped into the net by Matthews who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Palát’s quirky goal forced a goaltender change for Toronto, bringing in Garret Sparks for Frederik Andersen.

McDonagh makes it to 600. Ryan McDonagh celebrated his 600th career game in the NHL Monday night in Toronto. He tallied two assists on the night, moving him to 28 assists on the season.

Making history…again. With Monday’s win in Toronto, the Lightning are the seventh team in the history of the NHL to get to the 110-point mark in a season in just 70 or fewer games. The last team to do this in recent history is the 1971-72 Boston Bruins, who also reached that 110-point mark in just 70 games.

Celebrity appearance. Walter Gretzky, the famed father of Wayne Gretzky, made an appearance at Monday night’s game. He was welcomed to Scotiabank Arena with a standing ovation and stick taps from the ice.

Vasilevskiy makes big moves. Andrei Vasilevskiy leads in the NHL in save percentage with .931, ahead of his former mentor Ben Bishop by just .001. His record following a loss is now 10-0-1. He made 26 saves on the night, only allowing two goals, and helping the Lightning pick up their 53rd win of the year and 24th win on the road this season. The team is now one win away from tying the franchise mark, set last season.

Down a ref. Linesman Brad Kovachik left Monday night’s contest early and did not return to the ice because of an illness, according to the NHL. The rest of the game was officiated by three referees.

#PoweredByFemaleFans. Toronto hosted a #PoweredByFemaleFans night with its matchup against the Lightning Monday night. Every seat was covered with a special edition T-shirt, the team logo made up of smaller graphics and phrases, in women’s sizes. “If they don’t fit you, give it to a female fan in your life,” the in-arena video reporter suggested, something women fans have been doing for years. One of the Lightning’s skating coaches, Barb Underhill, was one of the women recognized during the contest.

Lightning beat writer Diana C. Nearhos contributed to this report.

Contact Mari Faiello at [email protected]. Follow @faiello_mari.