We saw once again how the Tampa Bay Lightning play when they are focused and ready to play from the opening puck drop.
The Lightning made quick work of the Toronto Maple Leafs, jumping out to a 3-0 lead and extending that lead to 5-0 after two periods.
It did not take long for the Lightning to get on the scoreboard as Steven Stamkos scored his first goal to give the Bolts a 1-0 lead one minute into the game.
They were ready to play from the opening whistle. The Lightning neutralized Toronto’s speed, set the game’s tone with their aggression, and kept it up for the first 50 minutes.
The last ten minutes got a little sloppy, as they allowed two Toronto goals, but the game had already been decided by that time.
This was a much-needed win for the Lightning as they could not afford to go down three games to one to Toronto with a game five looming in Toronto.
Although the Bolts lost 5-2 to the Leafs in game three, they created a ton of momentum in the last thirty minutes of that game and were able to carry that momentum over to the start of game four on Sunday.
The Lightning got contributions from Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, who combined for one goal and two assists. Pat Maroon, Ross Colton, and Ondrej Palat also added goals for the Lightning.
Although pleased with the way his team played, Jon Cooper did not seem overly impressed. “This is just one game,” Jon Cooper said. “We’re here to win a series.”
The series is now at two games a piece, with a game five Tuesday night in Toronto. A place where the Lightning won game two by a score of 5-2.
Stamkos talked about the resiliency of the group and its impact on the game four win. “This group has proven it knows what it takes at this time of the year, and we know how to respond. Now that we’ve done that twice in this series let’s go out and grab the series lead. That’s got to be the mentality, so we just need to harness that energy that we come out with after a loss. Let’s do it again next game.”
One interesting stat about this series is that the team that has scored first has gone on to win every game in the series. There have been no lead changes in any game so far in the series.
It will take more of the same kind of effort put forth in game four to defeat the Maple Leafs in game five.
Stamkos has a good feeling about game five. “We’re a veteran group. We’ll lean on our experience here, and we know how critical Game 5 is in a tight series.”
Should the Lightning win in game five, it will be difficult for the Maple Leafs to come to Tampa and win a game six with the Lightning ready to clinch the series.
I predicted the Lightning to win the series in six games before the series began. I am still standing by that prediction.
The Lightning will win game five in Toronto and then wrap up the series with a game six win in Tampa on Thursda