Nik Antropov’s goal early in the third period held up as the winner Tuesday as Toronto skated to a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Chad Kilger and Mats Sundin also had goals for the Maple Leafs (34-27-9), who won a third straight game at home to improve to 15-15-5 at Air Canada Centre.
Brad Richards and Dan Boyle replied for Tampa Bay (39-28-4), which lost all four games against Toronto this season.
The win vaulted the Maple Leafs over the New York Rangers into ninth in the Eastern Conference standings. Many have pointed to the team’s inconsistent play at home as the reason it is still fighting for a playoff spot.
The strong play of Lightning goalie Marc Denis was the only reason the score was close. Toronto dominated play for most of the game and outshot Tampa 24-8 through two periods.
But the score was tied 2-2 until Antropov gave the Leafs their first lead of the night in the third. He took a pass from Sundin, skated in from the boards and slid the puck underneath Denis at 5:51. It was Antropov’s fourth goal in six games.
Some great goaltending in the final frantic minutes by Andrew Raycroft helped secure the win.
There were signs early this might not be Toronto’s night. They started hard right from the opening draw but the Lightning got on the board first.
Playing the point on the power play, Richards took a low shot that deflected off Leafs defenceman Ian White’s stick and bounced by Raycroft at 2:24. It was the sixth time in seven games the Leafs have given up the first goal.
Kilger tied it 1-1 at 11:34 after taking a nice pass from Kyle Wellwood. His shot off the rush squeezed by Denis to give Kilger his 11th goal of the year and a loud March Break crowd some life.
The Leafs continued to press the Lightning, but Tampa grabbed the lead again. Moments after appearing to catch Sundin with an undetected high-stick in his own zone, Boyle raced in on a short-handed rush and beat Raycroft at 4:36 of the second period.
It took Sundin less than 12 minutes to exact some revenge. The Leafs captain shook off Tampa players Cory Sarich and Vaclav Prospal in the corner before skating out and ripping a shot over the glove of Denis to make it 2-2 at 16:06 of the second period.
The goal was Sundin’s 388th goal as a Maple Leaf. He’s one short of tying Darryl Sittler for the franchise record.
Notes: Attendance was 19,530 . . . Tampa Bay has just two wins in its past 16 visits to Toronto . . . The Lightning lead the league with 45 road points this year . . . Tampa defenceman Luke Richardson was again a healthy scratch. The former Maple Leaf last dressed for the Lightning on Jan. 9.