TAMPA – Only 100 seconds had elapsed on the clock at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and the Leafs were already in the box, Phil Kessel whistled off for a too many men on the ice infraction.
"That was just a tell-tale sign for us that it was going to be a long night," said Randy Carlyle.
In the conclusion to a brief two-game trip to Florida – they shut out the Panthers on Monday – Carlyle's Leafs missed the chance to steal two points in Tampa, short the added bite required to push past the Lightning in a 4-2 loss on Tuesday night. "I don't think we demonstrated enough determination, fight, compete, in the hockey game," Carlyle continued after the game. "We didn't play desperate hockey."
Still, his team had a very real chance to emerge with another two points on the road. But in rare fashion, at least so far this season, each breakdown seemed to find its way into the back of the net, with Ben Scrivens hooked after four goals on 13 shots.
The Leafs really didn't give up much, just 10 shots through the opening two periods and 19 for the Lightning at final count. But in most instances, a breakdown was followed inevitably by a goal or a penalty.
Tyler Bozak's failed handoff to James van Riemsdyk along the wall in the defensive zone sprung the opener from Vincent Lecavalier. A trickling puck behind the Toronto net, one that three Leafs failed to maneuver, landed in the clutches of a wide-open Steven Stamkos, who promptly scored as one would expect. "Just a couple little mistakes we made and that was the difference," Clarke MacArthur said, "but other than that we were right there."
Down a goal at 2-1 entering the third and with a real chance to "maybe steal something" as Carlyle noted afterward, the Leafs came undone as Scrivens' night came to an end. Two goals on three Lightning shots sealed the deal. A late rally – complete with the tenacity and drive toward the goal of the inexperienced Anders Lindback – inevitably fell short. It was just the third Leafs loss in 10 games on the road this season (7-3-0).
1. Scrivens' perfect run ends
Shutouts over the Senators and Panthers in previous days had Ben Scrivens rolling into Tampa, but his perfect run came to an end after 154 minutes, 16 seconds on the goal from Lecavalier. "It seems like I was getting some fortunate bounces the last couple games and today they bounced the other way," he said. "It's the nature of the game. Those are the breaks. It seems like they're cyclical at times so you've just got to take what you can from it, continue on with the positives and if you can learn something from the negatives do that, put it behind you and practice tomorrow."
2. Grabovski ends drought
Mikhail Grabovski ended a lengthy 12-game goal drought with his fourth of the season and first since January 26. He had just one assist in that span. Grabovski has been assigned to a highly defensive role this season, but both he and the organization expect a little bit more production than the seven points in 17 games he's managed so far. "I think there's some situations where he's back to his old self," said Carlyle, "but I think there's still lots of room for improvement."
3. van Riemsdyk's goal production
Parked at the top of Lindback's crease, James van Riemsdyk deflected a Phil Kessel shot for his team-leading ninth goal of the year, a late marker that proved to be meaningless. But as if to illustrate Carlyle's insistence that he grind in and around the blue paint, van Riemsdyk has now scored eight of his nine goals from inside 21 feet.
4. Injury updates
Leafs general manager Dave Nonis updated the status of injured Leafs James Reimer and Matt Frattin in a brief conversation with TSN.ca in Tampa. Sidelined with a left knee strain, Reimer was expected back on the ice for a light workout either on Tuesday or Wednesday, his timeline still on track according to Nonis. The 24-year-old missed his third consecutive game against the Lightning. Frattin meanwhile, successfully underwent a procedure on his left knee last week and is on track to return in approximately 10 days. Joffrey Lupul continues his recovery from a fractured right forearm, back on the ice skating this week. He likely remains a couple weeks away from returning.
5. Liles scratched again
John-Michael Liles sat out his second consecutive game on Tuesday as Carlyle stuck with the same group on defence as he'd dressed in Florida a night earlier. "I don't think I have been playing up to where I should be playing," said Liles prior to the game, noting a conversation with Carlyle. "That's one of the things we discussed." Clearly and understandably not pleased with the decision, Liles could only accept it. "He's the coach, can't argue with it. It's not the first time it's happened and hopefully [I'll] get back in at some point. Just keep working hard."
Quote of the Night
"I don't know if we demonstrated enough determination or desperation until the last seven minutes of the hockey game. It seemed like we were a flat group for a good period of the game."
-Randy Carlyle, on his team's effort against the Lightning.
7 – Even-strength goals for van Riemsdyk, tied for the NHL lead with Cody Hodgson, Eric Staal, Marian Gaborik and injured teammate, Matt Frattin.
.926 – Save percentage for Scrivens this season following Tuesday's performance.
59 – Shot attempts for the Leafs against the Lightning; 25 hit the net, 19 were blocked, 15 missed entirely.
1 – Fight for Nazem Kadri in the NHL. Kadri mixed it up with Victor Hedman midway through the third period on Tuesday, his first fight at this level.
4.5 per cent - Shooting percentage for Kessel, who has three goals on 66 shots this season, third most in the league, trailing only Zach Parise and David Clarkson.
18:57 – Clarke MacArthur, a season-high.
Minute Watch II
17:40 – Mike Kostka, a season-low.
The Leafs return home from their two-game Florida swing to face the struggling Buffalo Sabres on Thursday.