Joffrey Lupul scored a goal and added three assists, leading the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 7-3 rout of the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre. Mikhail Grabovski, Matt Frattin, and Dion Phaneuf each added a goal and an assist, and Tim Connolly added two helpers as 14 of 18 Toronto skaters registered at least one point on the night. Forwards Nikolai Kulemin, Joey Crabb, David Steckel, and defenseman Cody Franson were the only ones left off the rather lengthy Leafs' score sheet.
The Maple Leafs launched a 42-shot assault on the Tampa net, led by Phaneuf's nine shots on goal and Phil Kessel's seven.
The Lightning's netminding situation has been a disaster all year long, and the club has now allowed the third-highest goal total in the NHL (129). Coupled with the absence of key defensemen Victor Hedman and Mattias Ohlund, the Bolts' ability to keep the puck out of their own net has been extremely diluted.
Lupul's 18th goal of the season came at 3:25 of the opening period, tying the game at 1-1 after Vincent Lecavalier had given Tampa an early lead in the opening minute of the game with his 14th of the year.
Tampa Bay starting goaltender Mathieu Garon was chased after Darryl Boyce scored his first of the season at the 13:43 mark of the second period to give Toronto a 4-3 lead. Garon yielded four goals on 21 shots, seeing his record drop to 11-10-2. The loss also broke a three-game win streak for the 33-year-old back stop.
Dwayne Roloson did not fare much better. He would give up a Frattin goal in the last minute of the middle stanza to give the Leafs a 5-3 lead heading to the third period, then allowed power play tallies to Phaneuf and Kessel in the final frame. Roloson would allow three goals on 21 shots.
Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson was solid, turning all but three of Tampa's 24 shots on goal aside. He made a big save on Adam Hall on a partial breakaway with just over eight minutes left in regulation, preserving a Leafs' three-goal lead. "The Monster" improved his record to 10-7-0, winning for the first time in his last three decisions.
Kessel scored his 22nd goal of the season with 7:32 remaining, his only point of the night and just Toronto's second with a with two-man advantage all season long. Kessel now sits third in the NHL scoring with 45 points, just one point behind both Vancouver's Henrik Sedin and Philadelphia's Claude Giroux.
One of the lone bright spots for the Bolts was Steven Stamkos' NHL-leading 27th goal of the year, scored midway through the second period to knot the score at that time at 2-2. Stamkos now has a five-goal lead on Kessel, New York's Marian Gaborik, and Chicago's Jonathan Toews, all of which have 22.
The seven goals tied the Leafs' high for the year, something they had attained twice before during the season -- November 19 against Washington, and November 22 versus this same Tampa squad.
The loss snapped a three-game Lightning winning streak, ending a recent stretch in which the team made strides in getting closer to the playoff pack with a 5-1-1 record in their last seven prior to tonight. They remain seven points out of the cutoff point between teams currently in qualifying position.
Meanwhile, Toronto moved to within a point of the eighth slot.