Published April 24, 2013
| Sports Network
Tampa, FL – Radko Gudas scored the difference-maker early in the third period and Martin St Louis had a hat trick as the Tampa Bay Lightning put an end to their recent struggles with a 5-2 victory over playoff-bound Toronto on Wednesday.
Steven Stamkos scored one goal and had an assist, while Nate Thompson had two assists for the Lightning, who had a six-game losing streak come to an end. Ben Bishop stopped 26-of-28 shots faced in the victory.
St Louis, who has recorded seven career three-goal games, also took over the NHL's scoring race with 58 points -- two more than the injured Sidney Crosby and his Tampa teammate Stamkos.
"Honestly, I just try to play the right way, finish the year strong and see where it takes me," St. Louis said.
Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul tallied the lone goals for the Maple Leafs, who secured their first playoff berth since 2004 with a victory over Ottawa on Saturday, but have lost three of four games overall. James Reimer allowed four goals on 25 shots in the setback.
Gudas, who left the game earlier with a leg injury before returning, one-timed the game-changer just 3:13 into the third.
Stamkos skated into the Toronto zone and tried a cross-ice pass to Teddy Purcell, but it was poked away. Purcell then tried a centering pass and the puck went off a defender before setting up perfectly for Gudas to send it home with a slapper for a 3-2 Bolts edge.
St. Louis added his second tally at the 13:08 mark. Keith Aulie's shot deflected in front of the net and St. Louis had an easy put-back to make it 4-2. The veteran capped off the contest on an empty-netter with 2:49 left to provide the final tally.
Kessel opened the scoring with 2:57 left in the first period. Tampa Bay's Matt Carle tried to clear the puck in his team's zone along the boards, but Tyler Bozak collected the disc and found Kessel across the slot for a wrister past Bishop's pad.
Stamkos tied the game at 1-1 just 5:54 into the second period. He skated with the puck along the right side and crashed to the net before switching to his backhand and flipping it in past Reimer as the Tampa sniper fell to the ice.
The Bolts took a 2-1 lead late in the frame. Nate Thompson got the puck in front of the net on a 3-on-2 and skated past the netminder before passing back to St. Louis, who trailed the play, for a snap shot which easily went in at the 15:48 mark.
Toronto's Clarke MacArthur helped the Leafs tie the contest with 24 seconds remaining in the second. MacArthur got the puck in the Tampa zone and skated across the slot to the left side while drawing defenders, before finding a wide open Lupul who one-timed the shot from the right wing.
"We have a lot of firepower, but it's just not our style to give up so many odd-man rushes," MacArthur said. "We're going to have to clean that up."
Toronto plays at Florida on Thursday and hosts Montreal to end the regular season on Saturday ... Stamkos scored his 29th goal of the season and moved two behind league leader Alex Ovechkin of Washington ... Tampa Bay took two of three from the Leafs in the season series, after Toronto swept all four matchups in 2011-12.