Lightning sink Leafs in OT
Simon Gagne scores 1:15 into overtime
Air Canada Centre – Toronto
Simon Gagne (TB) — 1 goal (GWG), 1 assist
Martin St. Louis (TB) — 2 goals
Nikolai Kulemin (TOR) — 2 goals
For a game he wasn't even supposed to suit up for, Simon Gagne had a pretty good night.
The former Philadelphia Flyer scored 1:15 into the overtime period as the Tampa Bay Lightning erased a two-goal deficit, defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 in a gutsy performance on Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre.
A pure shooter, Gagne went in on a 2-on-1 early in the fourth period, firing a rocket that beat Jonas Gustavsson over the left shoulder for the impressive victory. He also added an assist.
Before the contest, the winger had missed the previous 18 games with a nagging neck injury that caused blurred vision.
"We kind of kept [the return] secret this morning just in case," said Gagne.
"I was nervous. I didn't sleep a lot last night, even this afternoon I was looking for at least a good two hours for a nap, but I could not sleep. It's hard when you don't play for a month and you're coming back in Toronto. You know it's going to be a tough game. I'm glad this one's over and I'm glad we won the game."
Martin St. Louis tallied his second goal of the night with just nine seconds remaining, pushing the game to overtime.
The Lightning veteran netted the last-minute equalizer when his club controlled the offensive zone faceoff with 12 seconds left in regulation. After Dominic Moore won the draw, Steven Stamkos — who was held without a goal for the third straight game — set up St. Louis for the one-timer that split two Leafs and beat Gustavsson.
"It's been really hard," St. Louis said of Gagne. "He's a battler, he's a guy that wants to be out there and help his team win. It's not only been tough for him, it's been tough for us to not have him. You know what he can bring. We're happy to have him back."
Dan Ellis made 22 saves, helping Tampa Bay win its 14th game of the season. It was his sixth victory. With the overtime triumph, the Lightning snapped a two-game losing skid.
Nikolai Kulemin scored twice, Kris Versteeg had the other goal and added a helper as Toronto lost their third consecutive game and 15th overall.
Gustavsson, who was outstanding throughout the contest, stopped 35 of 39 shots, suffering his eighth loss of the season.
Toronto has now lost 15 of 19 games since opening the season with four straight victories.
The Maple Leafs came out flying, getting the first goal just 1:25 into the game. Tyler Bozak grabbed a big rebound and took a shot that ricocheted off the end boards, redirecting out front where Versteeg finished the play.
It was nearly a 2-0 lead when Mike Brown sacrificed his body late in the first, blocking a shot as Tampa's power play expired. The Leafs forward spotted Versteeg exiting the box and sent a stretch pass up the middle, but the Leafs forward fumbled the offering, drawing a whistle for offside.
With less than 30 seconds to play in the period, Luke Schenn looked to have his second goal of the year. The defenceman wired a slapshot that beat Ellis, but the officials ruled Clarke MacArthur interfered with the Tampa Bay goaltender.
"That should have been a goal," said Leafs coach Ron Wilson. "I think when the referee reviews it himself and he sees it, [he'll agree]. … He told me [MacArthur] was in the crease the whole time and he wasn't. He was pushed into the crease by the defenceman as the puck was entering the net.
"I have the advantage of replay so I can be critical of it, but it looked like a good goal from the bench and then when we watched the replay, I'd say it was a good goal. You can't argue that."
Toronto, a team with considerable trouble creating offensive opportunities this season, came out with a lot of jump. The Leafs were buzzing with seven shots on goal, missing the net six times, and having five shots blocked.
But two undisciplined penalties opened the door for the Lightning to create several scoring chances, while outshooting the home side 17-7 during the initial 20 minutes.
After coming out of the first unscathed, the Leafs were burned five minutes into the second. Following a boarding call on Kulemin, Ryan Malone collected a rebound behind the net and jammed the puck past Gustavsson, evening the score at one.
At 11:51, Kulemin registered a power-play tally of his own. The Leafs, who squandered their first opportunity with the man advantage minutes earlier, cycled the puck around the high slot until Tomas Kaberle found Kulemin for his eighth goal and second power-play marker on the year. It was just the 13th power-play goal allowed by the Lightning this season.
In the second, Toronto nearly doubled their first-period total, registering 13 shots. Tampa had 12.
Kulemin was very fortunate in third, snagging his second goal of the game. As Ellis went to the corner to collect a dump-in, the puck caromed off a stanchion and deflected into the crease where the Leafs forward tucked it into the open cage.
But St. Louis chipped into the two-goal lead not long after. The savvy veteran was left alone out front, beating Gustavsson high for his ninth goal and 30th point this season.
A heroes effort
Before he left the ice late in the game, Brown was instrumental in the defensive zone. The first-year Maple Leaf blocked two big shots, the second hitting him in the hand, sending the gritty forward to the dressing room.
Overall, Brown had a solid game, playing extremely hard at both ends, especially along the boards in the attacking zone and blocking shots in front of Gustavsson.
With files from the Canadian Press