Toronto Maple Leafs at Tampa Bay Lightning (-180, 5.5)
The Toronto Maple Leafs attempt to keep their fading playoff hopes alive with three games on the road to end the regular season, starting with a visit to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. The Maple Leafs have played one more game and stand three points behind Columbus for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference after a demoralizing 4-2 loss to Winnipeg on Saturday. The Lightning will be motivated after dropping their last two games since clinching a spot in the postseason.
The Maple Leafs have lost four straight on the road during a 2-9-0 stretch and will be without 44-point scorer Joffrey Lupul (knee surgery) the rest of the way while No. 1 goalie Jonathan Bernier (lower-body injury) is doubtful. The Lightning have struggled defensively of late and trail Montreal by four points for second in the Atlantic Division with a game in hand. Captain Steven Stamkos boasts 13 goals in 20 career games against the Maple Leafs – three in a 5-3 victory March 19.
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (38-33-8): James Reimer must step up in goal the final three games to give Toronto a chance, but no matter who is between the pipes the Maple Leafs must play better defense. Toronto allows a league-high 35.9 shots per game after Winnipeg peppered Reimer with 41 – 15 in the third period - with its season on the line. The Maple Leafs have plenty of weapons on the offensive end and Phil Kessel leads the way with 80 points, fourth in the league through Sunday and two from matching his career high.
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (42-27-9): Tampa Bay yielded nine goals combined to Calgary and Dallas the last two games after one of its most complete efforts since the Olympics in a 3-1 win over Montreal on April 1. “Hopefully this is out of our system and we can come down from our high chair after making the playoffs and realize that there are other teams that are coming and can still catch us,” Stamkos told the Tampa Tribune. “We’ll learn from this.” The Lightning lead Detroit by five points for third in the Atlantic Division.
* Under is 5-2-1 in the last eight meetings in Tampa Bay.
* Maple Leafs are 7-3 in the last 10 meetings.
* Maple Leafs are 2-9 in their last 11 overall.
* Lightning are 7-3 in their last 10 vs. Eastern Conference.
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