AIR CANADA CENTRE – TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA – Jake Gardiner scored late in regulation and Dion Phaneuf scored with :59 left in overtime as the Toronto Maple Leafs rallied to down the Lightning Thursday night 3-2.
With Tampa Bay clinging to a 2-1 lead and time winding down in regulation play, Gardiner threw the puck at the net from the left side. It hit a leg, bounced off of Bolts goalie Dwayne Roloson and started to slide out of the crease. But Lightning right winger Brett Connolly was back checking and his stick was on the ice. The puck hit it and went into the net at 17:05 to tie the game at 2-2. Gardiner was credited with his 7th goal of the year.
Both goalies made great saves in the overtime period but a Tampa Bay turnover cost them the game. They could not clear the zone and then lost control of the puck. It ended up on the stick of Phil Kessel who let a shot go that went wide to the left of the net. But it bounced off the end boards and came right to Phaneuf who lifted it over a sliding Roloson for the Maple Leaf victory.
The Lightning had taken a 2-1 lead at 8:48 of the third period when Steven Stamkos finished off a nice play for his NHL leading 59th goal of the year. Bruno Gervais grabbed control of the puck in the left slot as Stamkos moved undetected toward the net on the opposite side. Gervais fired a nice pass to him that he tapped into the open net.
Martin St. Louis opened the scoring for the Bolts just 5:49 into play when the puck bounced off of his skate and off Toronto goalie Ben Scrivens. Brian Lee made a nice pass across the slot to set up the bouncing puck that turned into St. Louis’ 25th goal of the year and a 1-0 Lightning lead.
It was short lived though because Jake Gardiner and Tim Connolly got down behind the defense and were on a 2 on 1 advantage in front of Tampa Bay goaltender Dwayne Roloson. Rolo never had a chance and when he committed to Gardiner, the d-man slid the puck over to Connolly who banged it into the empty net. It was a perfectly executed 2 on 1. For Connolly it was his 13th goal of the season at 6:32.
The second period was mostly dominated by Tampa Bay but both goaltenders were outstanding to keep the game tied at 1-1 after 40 minutes of play. Roloson made a beautiful glove save on a one timer from the slot and Steven Stamkos had several opportunities to score but Scrivens denied him. Martin St. Louis sent Stammer in alone early in the period but he shot the puck over the net. Later in the period Scrivens was forced to make a great pad save on Stamkos when he blasted a one timer from about 4 feet away.
Tampa Bay finishes out the season on Saturday at Winnipeg. Opening face off is scheduled for 7:00pm.
NOTES: Mike Commodore and Tim Wallace were healthy scratches…..Brandon Segal was sent down to Norfolk before the game…..Adam Hall made his return to the lineup after missing 9 games with an upper body injury…..Toronto swept the season series 4-0…..Tampa Bay falls to 12-8 in overtime…..The Lightning are now 37-36-8 for 82 points…..The Bolts out shot Toronto 37-31…..The Maple Leafs were 0-2 on the power play while the Lightning did not get a power play chance…..The Three Stars of the game were 1. Dwayne Roloson, 2. Ben Scrivens and 3. Steven Stamkos…..The game was reported as a sellout with 19,369 fans witnessing the victory for the home team.
Ray Blanchette covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for Outside The Redzone. He also covers NCAA football for the Saturday Blitz. Follow along at www.saturdayblitz.com. Blanchette is the owner of Blanchette Sports Holdings. Follow along with them at www.blanchettesh.elementfx.com or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100003521034703&sk=wall or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/BlanchettSports