Published April 05, 2012
| Sports Network
The Maple Leafs will wrap up the home portion of their disappointing season on Thursday night, but at least recent history says that the fans at Air Canada Centre should see plenty of goals.
Toronto goes for a season series sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning this evening and has not had a problem putting the puck into the nets over the first three encounters.
The Maple Leafs have potted a total of 17 goals versus the Lightning this season, putting forth a pair of seven-goal outbursts in the first two meetings before coming through with a 3-1 victory in the most recent matchup on March 15. That has Toronto in position to sweep its four-game set with Tampa Bay for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
Tim Connolly leads the Leafs with six points versus the Lightning, while injured forward Joffrey Lupul has two goals and three assists. Tyler Bozak and Joey Crabb have also scored twice versus the Bolts this season.
Toronto will look to avoid a seventh loss in nine games overall this evening after a disappointing finish on Tuesday in Buffalo. The Maple Leafs got a pair of goals from Bozak in the first period and one from Matt Frattin in a three- goal first period, and never trailed in the game until the Sabres' Derek Roy scored the game-winner at 3:29 of overtime to hand the Leafs a 6-5 defeat.
"It was gut-wrenching," Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle said. "It was one of those games that everything went our way early then kind of went against us late in the hockey game."
With both James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson nursing injuries, Ben Scrivens got the start and was tagged for all six goals on 45 shots faced. Clarke MacArthur and Jake Gardiner added goals for the Maple Leafs, who will miss the postseason for a franchise-worst seventh straight season. Phil Kessel ended with three assists, all in the first period to match a franchise record.
Kessel's 81-point total is the highest for a Leaf since Mats Sundin logged 83 points during the 1998-99 season.
Toronto also lost defenseman Carl Gunnarsson to a separated shoulder early in Tuesday's loss and he will miss Toronto's final two games, including Saturday's season-ending contest in Montreal. Gustavsson, Mikhail Grabovski (lacerated leg) and David Steckel (MCL) are all questionable for tonight.
The Lightning had a two-game win streak snapped last night with a 5-2 setback in Montreal. Playing in his fourth contest since missing 18 straight due to a hand injury, Vincent Lecavalier scored his first goal since Feb. 9 and Bruno Gervais also scored. Sebastien Caron made 20 saves on 25 shots faced.
"The reality of games right now is the motivational level," said Tampa head coach Guy Boucher. "When you're not making the playoffs and our guys have fought as hard as they have for every game, it's hard at the end of the season."
Blueliner Victor Hedman added an assist to give him a goal and five helpers over a career-high five-game point streak, though Steven Stamkos had his six- game run of points end. Stamkos had logged eight goals and 11 points over that span and remained stuck on 58 goals this season, the second-most in the NHL since the lockout behind only Alex Ovechkin's 65 for Washington in 2007-08.
Stamkos, who leads Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin by 10 goals in the race for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy, has seven goals and 18 points in 15 career games versus Toronto. That includes a goal and an assist in the three meetings this season.
Tampa Bay is ending the season on a three-game swing and wraps its schedule on Saturday in Winnipeg. Though the club matched a club record with 25 home victories this season, it has gone just 12-22-5 on the road.