Lightning Fall Short Against Toronto For Third Straight Defeat

Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (71) and defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) react as the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate their win over the Lightning during an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)


TAMPA — After falling behind Toronto 4-2 after two periods, the Lightning owned the Maple Leafs’ zone for much of the third period.

However, the Lightning fell short in a 4-3 loss Tuesday night at Amalie Arena. It was Tampa Bay’s third straight loss and in each setback they allowed at least four goals after going 26 straight games without giving up more than three.

The loss also snapped an 11-game home win streak.

“We didn’t play poorly five-on-five,” said coach Jon Cooper, whose team went 0-for-3 on the man advantage and allowed a pair of powerplay goals. “It was total special teams game. When you lose a hockey game and the losing team’s players are a plus (in plus/minus) and the other team’s players are a minus, you know what decided the game. It was all special teams.”

Indeed, all but two of the Lightning’s 18 skaters were even or a plus while the Leafs had eight players that were a minus.

Still, no matter how you break it down, the Lightning came out on the short end on a night when defenseman Zach Bogosian and forward Barclay Goodrow made their debuts in a Tampa Bay uniform. The home crowd also got its first look at forward Blake Coleman, who made his debut with the team during a three-game road trip.

Cooper liked the energy level he saw from the acquisitions.

“If this is what we are going to get from those three guys every single night, we’re going to be happy,” he said.

Trailing 2-1, the Lightning knotted the score at 11:54 of the second period when Cedric Paquette deflected a Kevin Shattenkirk shot that went off Pat Maroon and past Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen.

Thirty-one second later John Tavares, from low in the left-wing circle, put a backhander past Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to make it 3-2.

Less than two minutes later on the powerplay, the Maple Leafs got what proved to be the game-winning goal on William Nylander’s between-the-legs shot from Vasilevskiy’s doorstep that beat the goalie high to the glove side.

Yanni Gourde’s goal at 7:27 of the third period made it a one-goal game, but the Lightning could not get the equalizer despite the territorial advantage.

“Tonight we started well and we kind of gave it back to them in the second period with some loose play,” said Shattenkirk, who took blame for Nylander’s goal, which was scored when he was serving four minutes in the box for slashing and high sticking. “At the same time, we responded in the third. We really didn’t give them anything in the third period except for maybe one chance.”

The Lightning, who outshot Toronto 14-3 in the final period, went 2-for-4 on the man advantage in last Thursday’s loss at Vegas. That is the only game in the last 21 they have struck for more than one powerplay goal. In fact, in the other 20 games Tampa Bay is 2-for-48.

“We missed the net a lot,” said Cooper of Tuesday night’s effort on the PP. “We had some looks, but on the other side of things we gave up two on their powerplay.”

The Lightning played the third period without the services of Steven Stamkos, who may have reaggravated an injury that sidelined him for a couple of recent games. Cooper did not have a postgame update.

The Lightning, who still trail Boston by five points in the Atlantic Division after the Bruins lost to Calgary on Tuesday night, continue their five-game homestand Thursday night (7:00) against Chicago.

Tom Layberger is also a contributing writer for forbes.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Tom Layberger has been a sports writer, reporter and editor since 1990. Among the companies he has worked for are Comcast, NBC and The Topps Company. In addition to being a contributing writer for sportstalkflorida.com, Tom also writes for forbes.com and globalsportmatters.com. A native of the Philadelphia suburbs and a USF grad, Tom is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation. He resides in Tampa.