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Fading Leafs take on Lightning
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Toronto Maple Leafs hope to give their fading playoff chances an injection of life when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning for Tuesday's battle in Central Florida.
The Maple Leafs are three points behind Columbus for the last playoff spot in the East with only three games left on their schedule.
All three of Toronto's remaining games are on the road and the club likely needs to win every one and hope for help from other teams to make the postseason for a second straight spring. The Leafs, who are just 14-17-7 on the road in 2013-14, had missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons before returning to the tournament last year.
Already without No. 1 goaltender Jonathan Bernier for the rest of the regular season, Toronto also will not have forward Joffrey Lupul for the remaining three games. The club announced Monday that Lupul, who is third on the Maple Leafs with 22 goals this season, will undergo surgery on his knee and be sidelined for the next 3-to-4 weeks.
Toronto's postseason dreams were severely damaged when the club lost its last eight games of March in regulation. The Leafs won two straight to begin April to get back in the playoff conversation, but then lost their final home game of the regular season in Saturday's 4-2 setback against Winnipeg.
The Maple Leafs held leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the first period of Saturday's game, but the Jets scored three unanswered markers to finish the contest. Tobias Enstrom scored the eventual game-winning goal when he converted on the power play with 2:58 left in the second period.
Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri provided Toronto's two goals and James Reimer allowed all four goals on 41 shots.
"I think they outplayed us," Kessel said. "We need to play better."
Reimer, who is 1-6-0 over his last seven starts, expects to get the call again on Tuesday. The 26-year-old is 2-4-0 with a 3.31 goals against average in six career games against the Lightning.
Toronto won the first two meetings with the Lightning this season before dropping a 5-3 home decision against Tampa on March 19. Reimer allowed five goals on 30 shots in the setback, as the Leafs lost to Tampa for only the third time in 10 outings. Toronto has claimed three of the past five road meetings against the Bolts.
Tampa Bay already has locked up a playoff spot and is five points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings for third place in the Atlantic Division standings with four games left for both teams. The Lightning will face Montreal in the opening round of the playoffs unless Detroit, which visits Buffalo on Tuesday, beats them in the standings.
The Lightning have lost their last two games in regulation, including Saturday's 5-2 setback against the visiting Dallas Stars. Jamie Benn had two goals and an assist to help Dallas rout the Bolts at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Andrej Sustr and Steven Stamkos scored for the Lightning, who have dropped three of their last four. Ben Bishop allowed all five goals on 28 shots.
Sustr's goal was the first of his NHL career and his eighth point.
"It was exciting and something I will always remember for the rest of my life," said Sustr of his first goal. "Unfortunately I'll associate it with a loss and I'd rather it be the other way around."
Tampa Bay fell to 22-10-6 on home ice and is playing the fourth part of a six- game homestand on Tuesday. The Lightning will cap the regular season with Sunday's road test in Washington.
In other news, the Lightning signed vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman to a four-year contract extension on Monday. Yzerman has one more year remaining on his initial contract with the club and is completing his fourth season as the Lightning's lead hockey operations executive.
04/08 11:01:58 ET