NHL

Struggling Leafs look to end slide against Bolts in Tampa

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The Sports Network
3/15/2012 10:59:06 AM
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(Sports Network) - It's hard to believe the Maple Leafs were the seventh seed in the East just over a month ago, but Toronto's dreadful 2-13-2 mark currently has the club 10 points out of a playoff spot with just 12 games left.

Now the team heads into Tampa Bay for a date with 50-goal man Steven Stamkos and the Lightning at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Toronto lost its fifth straight game (0-4-1) and fell to 0-2 on a five-game road trip after getting slammed 5-2 by the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. The Maple Leafs at least scored twice after getting shut out in its previous two contests.

Tyler Bozak and Mikhail Grabovski had the goals for Toronto, while James Reimer stopped 22 shots in the loss.

The Maple Leafs are just 14-19-2 as the guest this year and will visit Ottawa and Boston to close their current swing.

Toronto has had the Lightning's number this season, as the Leafs scored seven goals in each of their two wins over Tampa Bay this season. They posted a 7-1 win in Tampa on Nov. 22 and notched a 7-3 home victory on Jan. 3.

The Lightning ended a three-game slide (0-2-1) with Tuesday's 6-1 thrashing of the Boston Bruins. It was the fifth victory in eight games for Tampa Bay, which enters today seven points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Stamkos became the first player to reach 50 goals this season, picking up a pair of scores in the rout of the visiting Bruins. The 22-year-old Stamkos also made his mark as the sixth player in league history to score at least 50 goals in a season twice before turning 23, joining Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Joe Nieuwendyk and Alex Ovechkin.

"It was definitely in the back of my mind. It was a special night," said Stamkos, who set a career-high with 51 goals in 2009-10.

Stamkos will likely win the Rocket Richard Trophy for a second time this year, as he is currently 12 goals ahead of Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin for the league lead with less than a month left in the regular season.

Tom Pyatt, Nate Thompson and Ryan Shannon all tallied in the first five minutes for the Lightning. Dustin Tokarski earned his first NHL victory, stopping a career-best 33 shots for Tampa.

Tonight marks the third test of a seven-game homestand for the Lightning, who are 21-11-2 in Tampa this year compared to an 11-19-5 road record.

The clubs will cap the season series on April 5 in Toronto.

Steven Stamkos, David Steckel (Photo: Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
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