Stamkos has goal and three assists as Lightning down Maple Leafs 5-3

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Published December 9, 2021 at 9:44 pm

TORONTO — Steven Stamkos scored early and set up his team’s final three goals to help the back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning grind out a 5-3 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.

The shorthanded Lightning (17-5-4) were without four significant players but managed its fifth win a row before 18,919 at Scotiabank Arena.

Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs (18-8-2) lost their third in four outings since forward Mitch Marner was lost to a shoulder injury last Friday.

Regulars Jason Spezza (suspension), Travis Dermott (shoulder) and Rasmus Sandin (knee) also were missing from the Toronto lineup.

But Tampa Bay performed without stud forwards Nikita Kucherov (lower body), Brayden Point (upper body), Anthony Cirelli (upper body) and defenceman Erik Cernak (foot).

The Lightning exhibited their turnover-causing forecheck that sent Tampa Bay on a path to successive two Stanley Cups victories in and 2019-20 and 2020-21.

Tied 2-2 after the opening 20 minutes, Stamkos took away the puck from veteran Maple Leafs defenceman Jake Muzzin early in the second period. The Lightning captain then found Ondrej Palat, who was fortunate when Toronto right-wing William Nylander knocked the puck off Palat’s stick and into his own goal.

Stamkos, raised just north of Toronto in Markham, and Palat were at it five minutes later, forcing Maple Leafs defenceman TJ Brodie into a turnover along the sideboards into the Toronto end.

Palat then found rookie Taylor Raddysh of Caledon, ON, for his third and a two-goal lead.

Toronto forward Ondrej Kase scored his second of the game with 10 minutes and 24 seconds remaining on a rebound to pull his club within a goal. But Palat added an empty netter.

The Maple Leafs outshot the visitors 38-27.

The Maple Leafs snatched an early lead, only to fall behind 2-1 before scoring a second power-play goal in the late stages of the first period.

Kase pounced on the loose puck in front of the Tampa goal for his 50th career goal and a 1-0 advantage.

Lightning veteran Corey Perry picked off a pass at his blue line from Muzzin and then set up linemate Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on a two-on-one break.

Tampa Bay moved in front 2-1 with Stamkos’s 39-foot howitzer in the high slot midway through the opening period. But Nylander tied the game with a power-play goal at the 19:53 mark.

Auston Matthews made a nifty play from a face-off outside the Lightning blue line to gain the zone on his opponent Bellemare. Matthews then fired a cross-ice pass to Nylander for his 12th of the campaign.

Nylander had a shorthanded breakaway early in the third period but fired high and wide on Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2021.

Tim Wharnsby, The Canadian Press

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