TORONTO, Canada (FNN SPORTS) – Last night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs was highly anticipated for a couple of reasons: First, the return of Brayden Point after his double hip surgery, and second, Victor Hedman playing in his 700th game. Both players hit the ice with determination that helped the Bolts carry a different tune.
The electricity of the first line combo for the Lightning set the tone for the night. Stamkos, Point, and Kucherov came out skating fast and hard, really attacking the Maple Leafs’ net. Not even two minutes into the first period, Point scored his first goal of the season, reminding us of his relentlessness in front of opponents’ nets. Moments after Point’s goal, Hedman, who started off paired with Sergachev for the night, hit the penalty box for a cross check call, placing the Maple Leafs player in a power play where A. Johnsson positioned himself to get a goal.
At 7:46 into the first period, the Maple Leafs’ Johnathan Tavares put the Leafs up 2-1 with a tip-in shot. Less than three minutes later, the Bolts responded as Hedman assisted Kucherov with a snap shot goal to tie the game 2-2. Tampa’s new defensive player, Shattenkirk, showed a beautiful read on the Maple Leafs’ defense, skating central up the ice to get an unassisted goal, his third goal already for the season, putting the Lightning up 3-2. Toronto’s Auston Matthews had been skating hard at the Bolts goal the whole first period and finally got a wrist shot in, putting the score at 3-3. Seconds before the period ended, Cirelli found Stamkos for a power play goal, closing the first period with the Bolts in the lead, 4-3.
The second period saw a lot of defense, with both teams playing fast hockey. The Lightning’s defense pairings kept switching up and continued rotating Coburn in, which quickened Tampa’s defensive pace. The Bolts defense allowed the guys to move up and down the ice more and even be more involved offensively. Both defenses were in the zone, but finally the Lightning’s first line combo scored the only goal of the second period. Stamkos fired to Kucherov and Kucherov to Point for a tip-in goal, lighting up the scoreboard for a 5-3 lead.
Another noteworthy Bolts line combo included Palat, Cirelli, and Killorn. Cirelli really knows how to use his body to create space to maneuver the puck. He helped set up his teammates significantly, so much so that 3:56 into the third period, Cirelli got a pass off to Palat, which Palat deflected off a Maple Leafs skate to score a goal.
With the Bolts ahead 6-3, Kucherov lands a holding penalty, putting the Maple Leafs in a power play that they hoped to maximize on, but the Leafs struggled against the Lightning’s defense and Vasilevskiy’s saves. As the power play clock ran out, the Leafs let up enough to allow Kucherov to rush out of the penalty box on to the ice for another goal, sealing the game for Tampa Bay 7-3.
Point showed that he brings a pace to this game that his teammates were excited to match, and the Lightning playing with more structure and faster puck execution made for quite a game. The Lightning look to carry this momentum into their continued road trip Saturday in Ottawa versus the Senators at 4pm ET.
Kasey Hudson is a Tampa team contributor for Florida National News. | firstname.lastname@example.org