TAMPA – Toronto forward Matthew Knies scored two goals within 2:22 in the latter part of the third period and John Tavares scored the game-winner at 4:05 in overtime as the Maple Leafs rallied for a 4-3 OT win in Amalie Arena on Saturday evening.
“You play the game for 60 minutes,” analyzed Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. “You play 82 of them and you play the same way. You saw the intensity of the game elevate when the score got tied.”
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov set the Bolts up with a 3-1 lead after one period, but that is as dominant as the Bolts could be.
The Lightning didn’t have a knockout punch and it needed one as Knies flipped the momentum at the 14:22 mark of the third when his second goal tied the game at 3-3.
“Then everyone was really, really engaged, plus they scored the winner at the end there, but why did it take them to tie it for us to get to that point?” questioned Cooper.
Lightning center Alex Barre-Boulet, who scored his first goal of the season, saw a strategic change in the Lightning once Toronto gained control of the third period.
“We were playing on our heels a little more,” said Barre-Boulet. “We had a two-goal lead and obviously we have to keep pressing so the best defense is a good offense. We have to keep forechecking and not get on our heels.”
Tampa Bay controlled the game after Kucherov and Brayden Point seemed to play some two-man hockey midway through the first period. Kucherov knocked a slapped a shot by Lightning goalie Ilya Samsonov to tie the game at 1-1.
Kucherov then fed Barre-Boulet for his first goal of the season before Mikhail Sergachev fed Kucherov, who scored on the back of the left circle to give the Lightning a 3-1 lead at 13:29 in the first period.
“Eventually, when you turn the puck over and you are not playing with desperation, something is going to go in,” said Cooper. “We gave them some major rushes, but those outside shots are major stat padders.”
Cooper wanted his Lightning to take advantage of the 3-1 lead and apply that knock-out punch to the Maple Leafs. When that didn’t happen, he felt tough for goalie Jonas Johansson, who was left to try to control and win the game.
“Again, we left it on our goalie’s shoulders to carry it home and that is so unfair and obviously we didn’t do it and we didn’t deserve to do it,” said Cooper.
Toronto outshot Tampa Bay, 52-33, although the Lightning was 2-of-4 on the power play which was once again steady.
“When you give them chances that went into the net, those are big-time chances,” explained Cooper. “How did it get to that point? You have to digest that. You give them that many, there are enough that will go in.”