Published March 20, 2013
TORONTO – Nazem Kadri had three assists and Joffrey Lupul added a goal and an assist as the Toronto Maple Leafs snapped a five-game winless skid with a 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night.
Dion Phaneuf, Tyler Bozak and Nikolai Kulemin also scored for Toronto. Kadri's three points tied a career high, and he had a chance at a fourth point but was hauled down in front of the goal by Teddy Purcell midway through the third period.
Rookies Radko Gudas and Cory Conacher scored for Tampa Bay in the third, spoiling James Reimer's shutout attempt.
The Leafs, outshot 28-26, had been off since a 5-4 shootout loss to the visiting Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, with their last win coming March 6 — a 5-4 decision over visiting Ottawa.
Toronto gave up 16 goals during the slide with Reimer, 0-1-2 during that run, allowing eight goals on 76 shots.
Tampa, while 4-6-0 in its last 10, came into the game off back-to-back wins over Carolina and Philadelphia that saw it score four goals in each game. The Lightning were without star forward Vincent Lecavalier, who reportedly suffered a broken left foot March 12 against Florida.
The game marked the NHL debut this season of 22-year-old defenseman Jake Gardiner, a member of the all-rookie team last season who has been playing in the American Hockey League for the Toronto Marlies this season after recovering from a concussion.
Gardiner, who had 10 goals and 21 assists in 43 games with the Marlies this season, partnered John-Michael Liles and led all Leafs with 8:14 ice time in the first period.
Lupul — making his 99th appearance as a Leaf — opened the scoring at 6:56 of the first period, completing a nifty tic-tac-toe passing play with Kadri and Carl Gunnarson that found him alone in front of Mathieu Garon as checker Alex Killorn went walkabout. It was Lupul's third goal in two games since returning from a broken forearm.
Mikhail Grabovski's power-play goal later in the period was negated by a tripping call on Lupul.
It took Tampa 10 minutes to record a shot on goal. Toronto eventually outshot Tampa 8-6 after 20 minutes but the home net was hardly a stronghold.
Defenseman Mark Fraser pushed Toronto's league-leading number of fighting majors to 30 early in the second period when he tangled — successfully — with B.J. Crombeen. Seconds later, Phaneuf added to the Leafs lead with a rising slap shot from the point for his fifth of the season at 52 seconds.
Bozak, with his eighth of the year, made it 3-0 after Kessel controlled a rebound at 6:53 and fed it to his center who was alone in front. Kulemin then padded Toronto's lead to 4-0 with his fourth on the season after neatly evading the trailing Gudas and snapping a wrist shot from the slot at 7:22.
That chased Garon, who gave up four goals on 14 shots, in favor of Anders Lindback.
Tampa, 0 for 4 with the man advantage, was unable to profit from two early power plays in the third period. But Gudas made it 4-1 with a shot from the point that went through traffic at 7:44 for his first career goal.
Garon then returned to goal, as Lindback went to the dressing room.
Conacher scored his eighth of the season at 17:02, tipping in a pass from Tyler Johnson in front, to cut the lead to 4-2.
NOTES: The contest was the first stop on a three-game Canadian trip for the Lightning, who play in Ottawa on Saturday and Winnipeg on Sunday. ... The Lightning downed the Maple Leafs 4-2 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Feb. 19 ... Conacher, a native of Burlington, Ontario, had a 62-person suite for friends and family at the ACC. ... The Leafs have placed high-priced, little-used defenseman Mike Komisarek on waivers.