Tampa Bay Lightning centre Steve Stamkos, left, celebrates his second goal of the period with teammate Alex Killorn during the first period against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)
The Toronto Maple Leafs allowed the Lightning's scoring ace Steven Stamkos to wander
around their defensive zone freely and he responded by scoring three
goals in a 5-3 Tampa Bay victory on Wednesday, writes Mike Brophy.
Here's a crazy thought: When you are facing one of the deadliest scorers in the NHL, you might want to keep an eye on him.
Surely that notion came up in pre-game conversations regarding the Tampa Bay Lightning and Steven Stamkos. Yet the Toronto Maple Leafs allowed the Lightning's scoring ace to wander around their defensive zone freely and he responded by scoring three goals in a 5-3 Tampa Bay victory.
It was Toronto's third straight loss.
"The area in which Stamkos scored his goals, obviously you don't want to give anybody, specifically anybody of that skill set, that kind of space," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said.
"On the penalty-killing goal we missed the assignment and then on the other one that came across the crease we missed an opportunity to take the puck and clear the zone. We had five people in position, but we were coasting and watching."
With the Maple Leafs shorthanded, Tampa Bay sniper Steven Stamkos was allowed to set up in his usual shooting position in the faceoff circle. Teammate Valtteri Filppula spied him there and his pass was drilled past a stretched out Reimer. Two minutes later Stamkos was set up in front of the Toronto goal and slapped a shot past Reimer.
Toronto defenceman Paul Ranger was hit hard into the boards with 4.1 seconds remaining in the first period and had to be carried from the ice on a stretcher. Ranger was in a race into the Toronto end with Tampa Bay's Alex Killorn when Ranger overskated the puck and appeared to turn his body and reverse direction along the boards. In the process, Ranger appeared to be bent forward when Killorn laid a crushing hit on the Maple Leafs blue-liner and was given a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct. The players were sent to the dressing rooms and the final 4.1 seconds were played after the intermission.
The Maple Leafs indicated Ranger was taken to the hospital where he underwent testing and waited for results with his family.
"You never like to see anything like that happen and we just hope Range is okay," said teammate Joffrey Lupul. "We have heard he is conscience and he's doing well."
Following Tuesday night's loss in Detroit, James Reimer's agent Ray Petkau put the following on Twitter: "As is customary in Toronto, when your team plays poor defensively game after game you blame your goalie."
Following the game Toronto coach Randy Carlyle was asked about his team's goaltending in the 3-2 defeat and he said, "It was OK... just OK."
On Wednesday Petkau issued the following statement:
"The tweet I sent out last night, while inadvertently relevant to other comments made was not a response to the post-game comments from Randy Carlyle or James Reimer. That said, this has obviously been a trying season for James, but those are issues that will be dealt with in the off-season. Twitter is not the place for that, but the timing of my tweet necessitated further comment under these circumstances. Having the confidence of teammates, coaching staff and a team of supporters around them is imperative for a goalie's success."
Petkau said his Tweet Tuesday night was not directed at anyone and was just a general comment.
Tampa gets it; Toronto doesn't
Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel broke in two-on-one on the first shift of the game, but rather than shoot, Bozak attempted a pass. For a team that has been having trouble getting shots on goal, it was a wasted opportunity. With the game not yet a minute old, Tampa Bay's Radko Gudas took a seeing-eye shot from the point that Toronto goalie James Reimer didn't see. Gudas scored to make it 1-0.
Kessel, who was pointless in Toronto's past four games, notched his 35th from in front of the net after taking a pass from behind the goal by defenceman Carl Gunnarsson.
Toronto defenceman Tim Gleason wound up to take a slap shot from the point midway through the first, but at the last second, rather than shoot it into the shin pads of a charging defender, he spied Nikolai Kulemin open in the slot. He directed a slap pass that Kulemin re-directed between the legs of Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop.
Toronto's David Clarkson followed Tampa Bay's B.J. Crombeen around the Maple Leafs defensive zone trying to goad him into a fight. Crombeen turned down the invitation for about 20 seconds, but finally agreed and dropped his gloves at 11:32 of the second. Two punches later he joined his gloves on the ice. Clarkson was given an additional holding penalty to go with the fighting majors each received, but he probably should have been given an instigator penalty, too.
Tampa Bay's Tyler Johnson bumped into Toronto defenceman Tim Gleason, knocking him to the ice while the Maple Leafs were shorthanded. Johnson then proceeded to go to the net and score his 22nd goal of the season while Gleason scrambled to get back into the play.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.