Sharp Leafs snap Lightning’s five-game win streak

TORONTO – Auston Matthews scored in the second period as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 on Tuesday.

Michael Bunting, Pierre Engvall and William Nylander had the other goals for Toronto (20-7-6), while Matt Murray made 18 saves. Engvall and Nylander, who also had an assist, scored into the empty net late.

Vladislav Namestnikov replied for Tampa (20-10-1), which saw its five-game winning streak come to an end. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 36 shots for the Lightning, who lost in regulation for just the fourth time in their last 17 games (13-4-0).

The Leafs, meanwhile, were coming off regulation road defeats to the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals after collecting at least a point in 15 straight contests (12-0-3) — one short of the all-time franchise mark.

Toronto led the Lightning 3-2 in the teams’ first-round playoff series last spring, but Tampa stayed alive in double overtime of Game 6 at home before also taking the clincher at Scotiabank Arena.

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The two-time defending champion Lightning would eventually make it all the way to their third straight Stanley Cup Final before falling to the Colorado Avalanche.

Toronto, which lost 4-3 in OT in Tampa on Dec. 3, opened Tuesday’s scoring at 16:45 of the first period when Bunting took a pass from William Nylander and fired past Vasilevskiy’s blocker for his eighth goal of the season.

The Lightning netminder was sharp moments earlier on a Matthews break and also making a couple saves on a delayed penalty right before the intermission.

But Matthews got the better of a screened Vasilevskiy 61 seconds into the middle period when he fired upstairs on a power play.

Murray had almost nothing to do as the Leafs outshot Tampa 29-8 through 40 minutes, while Vasilevskiy held the fort at the other end — including outwaiting John Tavares on a breakaway before the Toronto captain ran out of real estate in tight.

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Vasilevskiy then made a stop on Zach Aston-Reese on the doorstep three minutes into the third to keep the Lightning within two before Namestnikov put home his own rebound off a faceoff win the offensive zone for his second of the campaign at 4:09.

Pontus Holmberg came close to restoring Toronto’s two-goal lead a couple minutes later, but hit the post before.

Murray and the Leafs held on late as the Lightning pushed before Engvall iced it into an empty net with his sixth, followed by Nylander’s empty-netter with 32 seconds left in the game. It was Nylander’s 19th goal of the season.

MOMENT OF SILENCE

The Leafs announced before puck drop that Vittorio Panza, the grandfather of defenceman Victor Mete, was one of five people killed in a shooting in Vaughan, Ont., during the weekend.

Panza’s partner was also killed by the shooter armed with a semi-automatic handgun.

Toronto and Tampa Bay observed a moment of silence before the game for the victims.

SANDIN SIDELINED

Leafs defenceman Rasmus Sandin (neck) departed in the second period after assisting on Matthews’ goal and didn’t return.

STAMMER APPROACHING 500

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Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is three goals short of 500 for his career.

The 32-year-old from Markham, Ont. — drafted No. 1 overall by Tampa at the 2008 draft — is looking to become the 47th player in NHL history to reach the milestone.

UP NEXT

Lightning: Visit the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday.

Leafs: Host the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 20, 2022.

Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.

&© 2022 The Canadian Press

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