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Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Dan Ellis (33) prepares to block a shot from Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak (42) during the second period of a NHL hockey game in Tampa, Florida, November 9, 2010. (STEVE NESIUS)
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Dan Ellis (33) prepares to block a shot from Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak (42) during the second period of a NHL hockey game in Tampa, Florida, November 9, 2010. (STEVE NESIUS)

Lightning strike down Leafs Add to ...

If the proceedings looked pretty familiar for the Toronto Maple Leafs, that's because this was a loss that followed the script of so many others this season.

They went down early. They were unwilling to go to the front of the net, even as a bigger, more skilled opponent continually crashed theirs.

And the Leafs' power play and top line were again woefully inadequate, with both blanked entirely in a particularly ugly 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

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The loss was Toronto's sixth in a row and ninth in the past 10 games, a futility run that threatens to already sink the Leafs' playoff chances even at this early juncture.

Doing the honours for the Lightning were Steve Stamkos with a pair, Nate Thompson and ex-Leaf Dominic Moore, who all potted goals in a three-goal first period that essentially salted the game away after 20 minutes.

Stamkos struck first with his league-leading 12th of the season on a bullet one-timer that showcased just why he'll be challenging Alex Ovechkin for the league's goal scoring crown for years to come.

Twenty-nine seconds later, Thompson crashed the crease and whacked in a puck in the blue paint unmolested to make it 2-0. Moore then tipped in a point shot from in close to end the first.

In the third, with the game long since won, Stamkos batted in a rebound for his lucky 13th in his 14th game, putting him well ahead of his 51-goal pace of a year ago.

Lightning strikes

Tampa Bay entered the game on a three-game losing skid after an impressive 7-2-1 start under new GM Steve Yzerman and coach Guy Boucher, but Toronto proved the perfect slump buster in this one. The Lightning have, after all, been the antithesis of the low-scoring Leafs this season, boasting a top-10 offence and power play - both of which were readily on display in thumping Toronto.

Boucher's opportunistic, counterattack style resulted in at least two of Tampa Bay's goals, as the Lightning forwards buzzed around Leafs netminder Jean-Sébastien Giguère with little in the way of opposition from defenders like Tomas Kaberle in close.

Playing catch-up from the 11-minute mark on, the Leafs out shot the Lightning 28-25 in the game - as deceiving a stat line as there has been this season given how few quality scoring chances Toronto actually had.

First line woes

Leafs coach Ron Wilson said prior to the game he steadfastly wanted to keep his second unit of Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin together, which meant yet another go-round for Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Kris Versteeg for a supposed "top" unit which has been anything but all season.

All three again laboured against the Lightning, and by the second period, the line was no more, with Versteeg demoted and Wilson searching desperately for offence from unlikely sources. John Mitchell and his 18 career goals took a regular shift alongside Kessel, while plugger Mike Brown was sent out on the power play.

Most of it was all old hat for Wilson, and aside from generating one glorious chance for Bozak in tight on netminder Dan Ellis, none of it worked.

Power outage

Toronto's power play was part of the problem. The Leafs' man advantage laid another egg in this one, going 0 for 5 in the game despite several good opportunities, including one 48-second 5-on-3 near the start of the first period which resulted in not a single good scoring chance and seemed to set the tone for the game.

Much of the problem came from a timid approach and far too many ineffective shots from the point, most of which hit Lightning players in front.

The Leafs fell to a dismal 7 of 58 on the power play this season, a 12-per-cent success rate that makes last season's last-place, 14-per-cent mark simply sparkle in comparison.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

 

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