Playoff-style performance

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

TAMPA -- Despite all the fears from the purists, once the playoffs start you'll probably see hard-fought, gritty, low-scoring games again.

The Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning staged a preview last night.

"They're a good hockey team," said coach John Tortorella, whose Lightning won 2-1. "They play very well. I think that was a test for both clubs. It could have gone either way."

But it went the Lightning's way.

A power-play goal from Pavel Kubina at 11:22 of the third period was the determining factor.

That the game should be decided by a power-play goal came as a surprise to neither coach. Both were fully aware of the danger, and in their pre-game speeches told their teams to stay out of the box.

In both cases the players paid little attention.

The Lightning scored on their sixth power play of the night, even though coach Pat Quinn likes his team to keep the total under four.

And the Leafs had a five-on-three for 1:25 before the game was five minutes old.

"You look at their scoring and so much of it comes off the power play," said Tortorella, who made a point of telling his players to be careful.

"Obviously, that didn't come to fruition," he said with a laugh.

But the Lightning killed the five-on-three and, according to Tortorella, that gave his team a bit of a boost.

"You know that's going to come back and bite you," he said.

Even so, it was the Leafs who opened the scoring when they turned the tables on the Lightning and built an odd-man rush off a neutral-zone turnover.

Alex Ponikarovsky made the play and Nik Antropov finished it. But as it turned out, it was all downhill for the Leafs after that.

Even though they played fairly well defensively and kept the potent Lightning attack under wraps for most of the evening, there were a couple of lapses.

"In the second period, we gave up one goal because we were sound asleep," Quinn said, "and we gave up another chance because we were sound asleep."

On the latter, as Vincent Lecavalier broke up the middle with speed, Carlo Colaiacovo applied the hook. He was sent off for his troubles, but the Leafs penalty killers were equal to the task.

On the other occasion, however, they weren't as fortunate.

This time it was Martin St. Louis who had the break, and as he closed in on the net, he ripped a shot that went off Ed Belfour's shoulder.

The puck went up in the air, came down on the crossbar and dropped into the net.

The score stayed that way until the two teams took penalties a minute apart in the third period. The Lightning killed its short-handed minute but the Leafs couldn't do the same.

Kubina ripped a shot from the circle that was past Ed Belfour before he could react.

As Lightning general manager Jay Feaster passed Tortorella, he said, "Did you see the gorilla leave the building?" Kubina likes to think of himself as an offensive player but this was his first goal of the season.

"Danny Boyle made a great play and passed it to me," Kubina said. "I just shot it low on the blocker side. Thank God it went in."

TOO MANY PENALTIES

That was not a sentiment shared by the Maple Leafs, but Quinn didn't feel that the result was particularly unjust. He noted that his team had taken too many penalties, had made too many turnovers and had blown its chances.

But on the other side, Tortorella was ebullient.

"Against a club like that and the way they're playing," he said, "that was a good, solid win."

Sort of like a playoff win.


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