TAMPA, Fla. -- Forwards Mason Raymond, Jay McClement and James van Riemsdyk scored goals as the Toronto Maple Leafs crept closer to the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 4-1 win on Thursday at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
With the win, Toronto (31-22-6) pulled within a point of the Lightning (32-20-5) in the Atlantic Division. The Leafs won 10 of their last 12. The Lightning lost four of five.
A day after learning star center Steven Stamkos would not be medically cleared to play for Team Canada in the Olympics or for the Lightning in key Eastern Conference games against the Leafs and Detroit on Saturday, Tampa Bay looked very much like a team hanging on until he returns.
Toronto took a 1-0 lead with 12:03 left in the second period on Raymond's backhand flip on a breakaway. Raymond had taken a long feed from left winger Nikolai Kulemin before bursting into the Lightning zone and bullying past center Alex Killorn to score his 15th goal of the season. Kulemin and defenseman Morgan Rielly had assists.
Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop kept the score 1-0 with a superlative skate save off a Tyler Bozak shot with 4:16 left in the period as Toronto broke out quickly seconds after Lightning center Tyler Johnson couldn't convert a snap pass to the goal mouth. Cedrick Desjardins replaced Bishop (21 saves) to begin the third period after the goaltender sustained a reported upper-body injury.
Toronto increased its lead to 2-0 less than three minutes into the third period when center Jay McClement, rushing the net, poked in a pass from right winger David Clarkson from the right side of the net. Clarkson and left winger Joffrey Lupul had assists on McClement's third goal of the season.
Riemsdyk scored his 23rd goal of the season in traffic to seal the game with 11:48 left. Defenseman Carl Gunnarson and right winger Phil Kessel had assists.
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier made 33 saves as Toronto improved to 11-12-5 on the road.
Tampa Bay dominated the beginning of the first period but Toronto ignited after its first power play of the game, creating three scoring chances -- two on breakaways -- that required nimble stops from Bishop. Gunnarsson came closest, weaving through three defenseman with 2:15 left, but failed to flick the puck over Bishop's shoulder in the crease.
Left winger Ondrej Palat scored his 12th of the season from the slot to cut the margin to 3-1 with 9:32 left. Right winger Martin St. Louis and Johnson had assists.
Bozak scored his 12th goal of the season on an empty-netter for Toronto with 2:52 left off a Kessel assist.
NOTES: Lightning captain Martin St. Louis admitted he was "bitter" after being left off the Team Canada roster for the Sochi Olympics but expressed mixed feelings after being named the replacement for teammate Steven Stamkos, who was not cleared to play medically after breaking a leg on Nov. 11. "I feel my whole career, how I came into this league, it was kind of a backdoor entrance, (and) this is kind of the same way," said the 38-year-old St. Louis, who was undrafted, signed by Calgary but cut in 2000 and then signed by the Lightning as a free agent. He has gone on to win two scoring titles, an MVP award and a Stanley Cup. ... Toronto C Nazem Kadri entered play on Thursday with thre goals and seven assists in a six-game points streak. ... The Leafs' six short-handed goals allowed on the road were tied for worst in the league.