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(Wednesday, March 19th)
Final Score: Tampa Bay 5, Toronto 3
Toronto, ON (SportsNetwork.com) - Steven Stamkos netted a natural hat trick, while both Ryan Malone and Valtteri Filppula added two assists in Tampa Bay's 5-3 victory over Toronto at Air Canada Centre.
"There might have been a little extra energy coming back home and playing this game in front of family and friends," Stamkos, a native of nearby Markham, Ontario said. "Especially with the magnitude of the game and how tight we are in the playoff race."
Radko Gudas and Tyler Johnson contributed scores for the Lightning, winners of four straight following a five-game losing streak.
Ben Bishop augmented his offense by stopping 36-of-39 shots, including 21 in the third period alone.
Nikolai Kulemin, Phil Kessel and Jake Gardiner lit the lamp for the Maple Leafs, who fell three points behind their Wednesday foes after dropping their third in a row.
Tyler Bozak picked up two helpers, though James Reimer allowed all five goals on 30 shots in defeat.
"That role's a tough role to play," Leafs defenceman Cody Franson said in defense of his teammate. "'Reims' has done a great job with it. He hasn't done anything to be a distraction or anything like that. He's came in and played well when he's been asked to. He's given us chances to win games that he's been playing in."
Gardiner was allowed to move from the left point to the top of the right circle to deposit his marker at 8:20 of the third which drew the hosts within 4-3, but the visitors struck back on the advantage to increase their lead to two as Malone fed Johnson for a one-timer from the right side with 7:04 to play.
Reimer was called to the bench for an extra skater with 1:42 to play and Bishop shut the door despite the Leafs moving the puck well in their offensive zone in a 6-on-5 situation.
"To protect the lead you have to have the lead," Bolts head coach Jon Cooper said. "The guys played pretty good for us down the stretch. Our motto in the locker room is get the lead, extend the lead, protect the lead."
Gudas opened the scoring just 59 seconds after the opening faceoff on a long, low shot from the left point, but Kessel equalized while on bended knee from the left side at 3:31.
Kulemin redirected a Tim Gleason point offering between Bishop's pads at 10:32 to put Toronto on top, then the Bolts matched it on the advantage on a Stamkos one-timer and went ahead with 4:21 left on another quick Stamkos try off a pass from Johnson.
Things took an ugly turn when Tampa forward Alex Killorn was given a major for boarding and a game misconduct for ramming Leafs defenseman Paul Ranger into the end boards in the final seconds of the period.
"Pretty unfortunate," Killorn said. "Happy that he is OK, I heard through the PR and stuff that he is doing all right now. It's kind of a scary moment, one of those plays where I commit to hit someone without knowing if they are going to turn, so it's just an unfortunate play."
Ranger was immobilized and removed from the arena on a stretcher. He was taken to a local hospital for observation, and the Leafs stated later that Ranger was in stable condition, conscious and alert.
The Leafs failed to click on the five-minute power play, and less than a minute after the penalty was through, Stamkos produced his third of the night off a Malone dish to make it 4-2.
"You can definitely tell they had more jump that we did, offered Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle.
Stamkos recorded his second hat trick of the season, his first since returning from a broken leg, and the seventh trifecta of his career ... Tampa Bay halted a four-game losing streak in Toronto since its last win, a 6-2 decision on Mar. 14, 2011.
03/19 23:48:14 ET
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