Johnson, Paquette lead Lightning past Maple Leafs 6-2
TORONTO (AP) — Tyler Johnson and Tampa Bay put together another impressive display.
It has been that kind of season for the Lightning.
Anthony Cirelli and Ondrej Palat also scored for Tampa Bay (53-13-4), and Ryan McDonagh, Yanni Gourde and Jan Rutta had two assists apiece. Nikita Kucherov helped set up the game’s first goal for his NHL-best 111th point of the season.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 26 saves to improve to 12-1-2 over his last 15 starts.
“We play to our strengths,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “We were in the right spots. We earned those breaks.”
Auston Matthews and Connor Brown scored for Toronto (42-22-5). Frederik Andersen allowed four goals on 19 shots before he was pulled early in the second period. Garret Sparks finished with 21 saves in relief.
“We didn’t come ready to play,” Matthews said. “They pretty much just slapped us.”
The Lightning became just the seventh team in NHL history to reach 110 points through 70 games, joining the Montreal Canadiens (1975-76, 1976-77 and 1977-78), Boston Bruins (1970-71 and 1971-72) and Detroit Red Wings (1995-96).
“We don’t really look at it so much about wins and losses,” Johnson said. “It’s about how we’re playing and what we need to do and just focus on the little things to prepare ourselves for playoffs.”
Minus winger Kasperi Kapanen because of illness, as well as injured defensemen Jake Gardiner (back) and Travis Dermott (shoulder), the Leafs were back at Scotiabank Arena after grabbing five of six points on their annual trip through Western Canada.
“That’s definitely no excuse,” Toronto center Nazem Kadri said of any lingering fatigue. “We should have showed a better effort.”
Tampa Bay opened the scoring 10:07 into the first when McDonagh’s pass in front went off Johnson’s skate and past Andersen for his 23rd goal.
The Lightning made it 2-0 with 1:22 left in period when Cirelli’s deft deflection from the slot fooled Andersen for his 14th.
Tampa Bay added three more in the second. Johnson got a tap-in and Braydon Coburn made it 4-0 when his shot hit Palat and ricocheted in off Matthews for his eighth, chasing Andersen.
Matthews got Toronto on the board at 11:49 when he stepped past Point and beat Vasilevskiy for his 31st off the rush. But Paquette responded for Tampa Bay, finishing off a 3-on-1 for a short-handed goal with 1:44 left in the period.
Fans then voiced their displeasure with boos as the Leafs, who still sit in fifth in the overall standings, headed to the locker room for the second intermission.
“We were no good,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “They were better than us from start to finish, won more battles, more races, and just had more jump.”
NOTES: The NHL says it is investigating the possible use of a homophobic slur during the game. Television cameras picked up what sounded like a slur with 1:51 left in the second period. An NHL spokesman says the league will have no further comment until its investigation is completed. … McDonagh played the 600th game of his career. … The Leafs and Lightning play one more time in the regular season April 4 at Scotiabank Arena.
Lightning: Visit the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.
Maple Leafs: Host the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.