TORONTO — Steven Stamkos knows the win wasn’t pretty. But given the the circumstances the Lightning found themselves in Monday night, the Tampa Bay captain was happy to leave Air Canada Centre with two points.
“We were able to get that 2-0 lead, but it was a tough one,” said Stamkos, who saw his six-game point streak end in the win. “Sometimes you’ve got to win games like this when you have tired legs and we found a way.”
With the win, the Lightning (37-22-4) find themselves tied with the Florida Panthers atop the Atlantic Division.
Johnson, who took a Kevan Miller clearing attempt off his forehead in Sunday’s 4-1 win in Boston and was a question mark to play in Toronto, picked up his first multi-goal game of the season.
“It all happened pretty quick so I’m not 100 per cent sure, but I think (the puck) just broke the visor and the visor cut me,” said Johnson, who said he received 11 or 12 stitches above his left eye. “I think that’s probably better than getting hit straight with the puck.”
Nazem Kadri got the Leafs on the board late in the third, but Toronto was unable to find the equalizer. The Leafs (21-30-10) have now lost back-to-back games and seven of eight.
“Tampa Bay’s a pretty good team but we hung with them so it was exciting to see the way we played,” said Brooks Laich, who made his Leafs debut. “We’re only going to get better.”
Johnson opened the scoring at 4:53 of the second period beating a screened Sparks with a snap shot glove-side from near the top of the face-off circle.
The Bolts forward made it 2-0 at 15:28 of the middle period beating Sparks five-hole from the side of the net for his 11th of the season.
“I feel more comfortable out there,” Johnson said. “I think our line’s playing well, I think we can do a lot better, but we’ve had some bad luck as well.
“It’s nice that we can play, not the greatest of games, but still get a win. Three games in four nights, all on the road, to get three wins out of that, I think we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves.”
Kadri picked up his 12th of the season, on a power play, at 17:45 of the third after getting the puck past a screened Vasilevskiy.
Sparks, making his first NHL start since Dec. 17, did his best to hold Toronto in the game during the first period as the Leafs were outshot 15-9.
Near the 12-minute mark, Sparks robbed Stamkos in close as the Lightning captain couldn’t get the puck up and over the rookie’s left pad.
Moments later, Sparks sprawled out to stop Valtteri Filppula with the paddle of this stick.
Tampa Bay played the second half of the game with six defencemen as Andrej Sustr left the game near the seven-minute mark of the second. Lightning coach Jon Cooper said the blue liner “jammed something.”
The Bolts have won all three meetings between the two clubs this season. They’ll meet again on March 15 in Toronto.
“We’re getting balance from everybody, all through the lineup,” Cooper said of the win streak. “Everybody’s contributing. The other thing is we’ve had pretty timely special teams.”