With only three games remaining in a shortened season, the Lightning wanted to finish the schedule strong and against the Leafs did just that.
It look 17 minutes for the videoboard to change from 0-0, and unfortunately it didn't start in the Bolts favor. With mulit-point games from Steven Stamkos, Nate Thompson, and Martin St. Louis, the nearly 19,000 in attendance got to see a fantastic display of effort and the will to never give up as the Bolts eventually cruised to a 5-2 victory.
Phil Kessel opened the scoring with 2:57 left in the first on a wrister just inside the circle that went past Ben Bishop's glove. The Lightning ended the first 20 minutes leading narrowly in shots (7-6) and overwhelmingly in faceoffs (12-of-15).
Tampa Bay not only tied it up in the second, but briefly took the lead on two beautifully executed plays, both assisted by Thompson. On the first goal, Thompson fired a stretch pass down the ice for Stamkos, who outskated D Mark Fraser and backhanded the puck rooftop past James Reimer. On the second score, St. Louis took the puck down the ice and shoveled an ill-guided pass at Thompson who had to find the puck, then control it before feeding it back to St. Louis for the go-ahead goal at 15:48.
The lead lasted for most of the remainder of the middle stanza until Joffrey Lupul tied it up with 23.4 seconds left.
After 40 minutes on the ice, the Leafs led in shots 19-16, while the Lightning hung on to a 14-12 edge in faceoffs won.
Radko Gudas, who left the ice late in the first but returned to start the second period, put the Bolts back on top with a perfectly placed shot that went top shelf right under the crossbar. The goal was Gudas' second of the season; both scores came against Toronto. Stamkos picked up an assist on the goal, putting him, St. Louis and Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby in a three-way tie for the NHL points leader with 56.
The 37-year-old St. Louis would change that roughly 10 minutes later when he grabbed his second goal of the night, and would not only move ahead of his teammate and Crosby on that goal (57), but would extend the lead and also tally his seventh career hat trick on an empty netter with less than three minutes left in the game.
Toronto got the best of the Bolts in the shot department 28-26, but Tampa Bay won more faceoffs 25-23, and most of all where it counts, on the scoreboard.
The Lightning will head to Boston Thursday to take on the Bruins at 7:30. Tampa Bay will wear special "Boston Strong" stickers. The helmets will then be signed and auctioned off on NHL.com to benefit the One Fund Boston. For more info, CLICK HERE.