TORONTO (AP) — Steven Stamkos scored early and set up Tampa Bay’s final three goals as the Lightning beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 on Thursday night.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper earned his 400th career victory.
The 54-year-old Canadian Olympic coach became the 39th coach in NHL history — and the quickest — to reach the milestone. Cooper, who also has steered the Lightning to back-to-back Stanley Cups and 70 playoffs wins in his 10 seasons at the helm, reached 400 regular-season wins in his 659th game, passing Bruce Boudreau’s 400 wins in 663 outings.
“I haven’t had a lot of time to digest that other than the fact that obviously proud to have done it with one team,” Cooper said. “But you don’t do that without an owner and, I’ve had two general managers ((Steve Yzerman and Julien BriseBois), who all have the same goal, all being on the same page, all bonded together.”
The short-handed Lightning were without four significant players and still managed to win their fifth straight game. Tampa Bay played forwards Nikita Kucherov (lower body), Brayden Point (upper body), Anthony Cirelli (upper body) and defenseman Erik Cernak (foot).
“It’s definitely not easy, especially when you are losing that quality of players,” Stamkos said. “But you can’t use that as an excuse. Guys stepped up.
“That’s a really good team over there. I know they’re missing a couple of key guys, too. They were playing good hockey.”
Ondrej Palat scored twice and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Taylor Raddysh added goals for Tampa Bay. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 35 saves.
Ondrej Kase had two goals, William Nylander also scored and Jack Campbell made 22 saves for the Maple Leafs, who lost for the third time in four games since losing forward Mitch Marner to a shoulder injury on Friday.
“Tough game for us,” Kase said. “We made so many turnovers, so that’s where I feel we lost the game.”
Regulars Jason Spezza (suspension), Travis Dermott (shoulder) and Rasmus Sandin (knee) also were missing from the Toronto lineup.
Tied 2-2 after the opening period, Stamkos took the puck away from veteran Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin early in the second period. The Lightning captain then found Palat, who was fortunate when Nylander knocked the puck off Palat’s stick and into his own goal.
Stamkos and Palat were at it five minutes later, forcing Maple Leafs defenseman TJ Brodie into a turnover along the sideboards into the Toronto end. Palat then found Raddysh for his third of the season and a two-goal lead.
“You can’t make those kinds of plays and spot them three goals at 5-on-5,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We’ll give them the power-play. The three 5-on-5 goals are inexcusable. Those are gifts against a team like that.”
Kase scored his second of the game with 10:24 remaining on a rebound as Toronto closed within a goal. Palat added an empty netter.
The Maple Leafs outshot the Lightning 38-27.
The Maple Leafs snatched an early lead, only to fall behind 2-1 before scoring a second power-play goal in the late stages of the first period.
Kase pounced on the loose puck in front of the Tampa goal for his 50th career goal and a 1-0 advantage.
Lightning veteran Corey Perry picked off a pass at his blue line from Muzzin and then set up Bellemare on a 2-on-1 break.
Tampa Bay moved in front 2-1 with Stamkos’ goal midway through the opening period. Nylander tied the game with a power-play goal at the 19:53 mark.
Lightning: At Ottawa Senators on Saturday to close out a five-game trip.
Maple Leafs: Host the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday to complete a three-game homestand.
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