About a week ago, the Maple Leafs’ entry into the 2014 playoffs looked like a foregone conclusion. Now their hold on a postseason spot is tenuous after Tampa Bay’s 5-3 victory on the strength of a Steven Stamkos hat trick.
It was Stamkos’ second hat trick of the season, which is a remarkable feat on its own, but becomes even more impressive when you remember that he missed most of the 2013-14 campaign with a broken tibia. He now has 19 goals and 30 points in just 24 games this season.
On the other end of the spectrum, Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer had a rough night, stopping just 25 of 30 shots after being called “just okay” by coach Randy Carlyle following Tuesday’s defeat. Although Reimer isn’t solely at fault for the five goals allowed, he didn’t look great tonight.
Toronto has now lost four of its last five games. With 80 points in 71 games, the Maple Leafs still hold the first Wild Card spot, but they are down to a four-point cushion over the Washington Capitals in the battle for a playoff spot. Toronto has played in one extra contest.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has now won four straight contests and have gained the edge over the Montreal Canadiens in the battle for the second seed in the Atlantic Division.