TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS GAME REPORT MARCH 10TH 2020: Rielly Return Just the Boost Leafs Needed
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS 2 – TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 1 FINAL
TORONTO, ON – Morgan Rielly didn’t make it onto the score sheet but, the impact his return had on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ morale was noticeable from the opening faceoff.
Rielly started his first game since January 12th on Tuesday night and helped the Leafs dominate the Tampa Bay Lightning throughout the 1st period. Toronto held Tampa Bay off the shot clock for the first 11 minutes and 10 seconds of the period, while they pelted Lightning starting netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy with 11 shots in that time.
The Leafs struck first on their second powerplay of the game. Mitch Marner faked a shot from the near-side wall and hit John Tavares with a pass in the high slot. He redirected the puck on net and it slide straight to William Nylander, who banged in the rebound to make it 1-0.
Nylander continues his hot streak, now with eight points in his last 10 games and his 31st on the season.
Tampa Bay got their second shot on net with 3:56 remaining in the frame and the shot count was 17-6 for Toronto at the end of the 1st period.
Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper must have sparked a fire under his team because they were completely different in the 2nd periods. The Leafs relied on Fredrick Andersen to make some big saves to open the frame as Tampa started to regain their composure.
With just under five minutes left, Brayden Point received a breakout pass and blasted up the middle of the ice. He attempted to split the Maple Leaf defence of Tyson Barrie and Rasmus Sandin, and all three players were taken out of the play.
Nikita Kucherov found the loose puck and threw it on net where Ondrej Palat chipped in the rebound to tie the game at 1. With the assist, Kucherov continues a road point streak of 14 games.
The Lightning continued to control possession and outshot the Maple Leafs 15-5 in the period.
“We gave it back to them in the second,” said Leafs’ Head Coach Sheldon Keefe. “You don’t expect a team as good as [the Tampa Bay Lightning] to allow us to outshoot them like we did in the first and we let them get back into it.”
The 3rd period was an even battle between these two very skilled teams. Just over two minutes in, Auston Matthews drew a tripping penalty against Cedric Paquette and Matthews made him pay.
Marner threw a beautiful cross-crease pass to Matthews from the bottom of one circle to the other. Matthews was wide open and he made no mistake with his one-timer. He buried his 47th of the season to put the Leafs back on top 2-1.
Tampa pressed for the remainder of the game but, Andersen was strong and stopped 32 of 33 shots for the victory.
Marner tallied two points in his 300th career NHL game.
The Lightning were without Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos in this game and the Tampa defence took a beating in this game. Mikhail Sergachev took a Matthews one-timer to the head, while Eric Cernak took another shot off the inside of the ankle, and Kevin Shattenkirk took a missed high stick.
Toronto meanwhile snags an important two points against one of the top teams in the league. They remain three points up on the Florida Panthers for 3rd in the Atlantic with 12 games remaining.
The Leafs remain at home on Thursday when the face the Nashville Predators before traveling to Boston to play the Bruins on Hockey Night in Canada.