The Toronto Maple Leafs held on to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning as they avoid another letdown performance during a crucial stretch.
Going into Tuesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning the Toronto Maple Leafs had to decide as a team whether they were going to provide an honest effort against a team they might meet in the playoffs in April.
After getting the brunt of the criticism for the team’s play lately, John Tavares and William Nylander stepped up for Toronto accounting for three of the four goals. Seeing that response provides some hope that all is not this season but unlike last Thursday’s victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, it wasn’t perfect and it came with a cost.
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In the second period, Jake Muzzin attempted to block a shot and succeeded but unfortunately, it caught him in the hand and now the defenceman will miss the next four weeks with a broken hand.
If the third period showed anything, it’s that there is still work to be done especially with Tampa outshooting them 14-3 and the Leafs went around 10 minutes without registering a shot.
Getting the victory with Muzzin out is a step in the right direction considering this team has had a hard time staying composed in those situations. It also helped that Frederik Andersen had one of his better games since making his return from his neck injury.
In these situations, it’s tough to expect the defencemen to pick up the slack without help from the forwards and that’s what they got and it will have to continue with Muzzin out long term.
"“We’re really going to have to embrace the next man up,” Tyson Barrie told reporters after the game. “This showed a lot of character, having Muzz go down, then grinding out a third period is a really good sign for us. They make a big push in the third, but we don’t break like we have in the past.”"
What was important in this game was that the team didn’t allow a goal on the penalty kill to a team that has a lot of weapons to choose from and when they allowed the first goal, it didn’t lead to a total breakdown.
Regardless, this team has a long way to go to prove they are capable of putting together this type of effort through a stretch of games. It might help that Thursday’s game is against the Florida Panthers and the stakes will require them to be focused right off the start.
What did you think about Tuesday’s win? Can the Leafs continue to play like this consistently? Let us know in the comments below.