The Toronto Maple Leafs won the opener of their three-game homestand, but they feel that they must step up their game Thursday night against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning.
Toronto allowed three third-period goals before holding on for a 5-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. Auston Matthews scored twice for the Maple Leafs to extend his goal streak to seven games.
"I didn't like much about the game at any period," Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. "We found ways to strike offensively, whether it was on our power play or some quick chances off the rush, but in terms of how we like to play and how we have played there wasn't a lot to like about the game tonight in any period. Kind of happy that frankly the third period catches up to us because it probably should have."
The Lightning also won on Tuesday, 3-2 over the Montreal Canadiens on two late goals.
Corey Perry tied the game for Tampa Bay at 17:51 of the third period and Ondrej Palat scored the winner at 19:22.
It was Tampa Bay's fourth consecutive victory.
"(Montreal was) a determined group," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "(They) probably deserved points out of the game. Fortunately for us, we got the two, but they probably deserved some points out of this one."
The Maple Leafs were without Mitchell Marner (shoulder), Rasmus Sandin (knee), Travis Dermott (shoulder) and Jason Spezza (suspension) for the game Tuesday.
Marner could be out three-or-four weeks with his injury, incurred during a collision with Jake Muzzin in a drill during practice on Friday.
"Things happen in this game, some are unfortunate," Keefe said. "You adapt, you adjust. That's it. That's what we've been doing. (Marner) is a big loss for us. He's a major contributor five-on-five, penalty kill, power play. Other guys need to step up and fill that gap."
The injury was not considered to be this serious at first. Marner accompanied the team on its two-game trip but was scratched for both losses.
"He had the bump in practice," Keefe said. "After giving it some time and seeing where it was at, it was a little worse than they thought it was going to be."
Spezza was given a six-game suspension on Tuesday for his hit on Neal Pionk in the 6-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. Pionk went low to clear the puck with his glove and Spezza's knee hit his head, causing a concussion.
Earlier in the game, Sandin suffered a knee injury that is expected to keep him out for two-to-three weeks after a knee-to-knee collision with Pionk, who received a two-game suspension.
Toronto called up center Alex Steeves and defenseman Kristians Rubins for the game against Columbus.
Like the Maple Leafs, the Lightning also feel that they can play better than they did on Tuesday.
"I guess good teams find a way to win, and we found a way to win tonight," said Pat Maroon, whose first-period goal gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
"It wasn't a perfect game, but we have two points on the road," Palat said. "I'll take it."
Toronto defeated visiting Tampa Bay 2-1 in overtime on Nov. 4.
Tampa Bay claimed forward Riley Nash off waivers from Winnipeg on Tuesday.
--Field Level Media