The Tampa Bay Lightning gave the Toronto Maple Leafs a dose of what may be in store for the Leafs in their potential first-round matchup.
The Lightning scored a season-high eight goals in an 8-1 rout of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday Night.
The Lightning had their swagger back and looked like the defending Stanley Cup Champions for one night.
It was also a record-setting night.
Steven Stamkos scored a power-play goal at 12:34 of the second period to give the Lightning a 3-0 lead. With that goal, Stamkos became the all-time leading scorer in Lightning history as he passed Marty St. Louis with 954 career points.
Stamkos would also pick up two additional assists to finish the night with three points and 956 for his career.
Nikita Kucherov tallied his 600th career point when he assisted on the Stamkos record-setting goal.
Everything was clicking for the Lightning.
There was excellent puck movement and physical play. The power play looked playoff-ready, scoring five goals on six attempts.
The penalty kill was just as sharp as the power play limiting Toronto to one goal in five chances.
To me, this was more impressive than the power play. You want to score with the man advantage, but the penalty kill will win you games in the playoffs. The Lightning had that defensive mentality on the penalty kill against the Leafs.
Andrei Vasilevskiy had his best game in a month as he stopped 37 of 38 Toronto shots. Vasilevskiy looked like the Vasy we have come to know and love the last two seasons making saves he should make and some saves that only Vasi can make.
This was a game the Lightning needed to win to send a message to the rest of the league that this team will not go out quickly in the Stanley Cup playoffs. That message was sent and delivered loud and clear.
It looks as if it will be Toronto matching up against the Lightning in the first-round playoffs, and this team showed tonight that you need to bring your complete game if you want to have a chance at knocking off the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
Even though the Lightning was missing forward Braydon Point, who was out with an upper-body injury, and the Leafs were missing the NHL’s leading goal scorer Auston Matthews, Coach Jon Cooper liked what he saw from the Lightning.
“We played a team that’s a division rival. We’ve never really played in the playoffs, but a team we see a few times a year.”
“Last time we played them in this building, the score wasn’t as bad as tonight’s was, but it was fairly similar just the other way. I think we had a lot to play for tonight, just kind of defending our home turf a little bit against a really good Leaf’s team. I know they were missing a 60-goal scorer, but it was a good effort by us, so hopefully, we can continue this.”
The Lightning will play two more playoff teams over the weekend. The Bolts will play Nashville at home on Saturday in a rematch of their Stadiums Series game earlier this season. The Lightning will make a trip to Sunrise on Sunday to take on the Florida Panthers.