LEAFS 2, LIGHTNING 1. WHAT THE LEAFS SAID: “This is another really close hockey game that we’ve had to play here and, again, at 5-on-5 we were outscored today. That’s been a challenge for us. That’s something that obviously we’ve worked at, but when you’re going up against the best offensive team in the NHL, you’re going to give up a great deal. When we did, Freddie (Andersen) was outstanding, in the second period especially. There were a lot of very good things for us and we’ll take two very important points.” –SHELDON KEEFE

HEAD COACH SHELDON KEEFE

On the team having success putting the game away in the third period tonight:

I think it’s a confidence thing. That’s part of it. So yeah, I do. I don’t think that’s characteristic that a team has. I think it’s something that comes and goes, kind of with your confidence as a team. We haven’t really been going as a team, so we haven’t had that. This is another really close hockey game that we’ve had to play here and, again, at 5-on-5 we were outscored today. That’s been a challenge for us. That’s something that obviously we’ve worked at, but when you’re going up against the best offensive team in the NHL, you’re going to give up a great deal. When we did, Freddie [Andersen] was outstanding, in the second period especially. There were a lot of very good things for us and we’ll take two very important points.

On Morgan Rielly’s play tonight:

I thought he was pretty good, all things considered. He hasn’t played and it’s a tough game – especially in that second period. It’s hard for our defence to get off the ice and they’re really coming. It looked like it was taking a toll on him physically, in terms of his conditioning. It’s one thing to train, as we all know and say, and practice in the gym and all that, but it is a whole different ballgame. Just his legs and the way he skates, all of a sudden, he jumps into a hole – whether it’s offensively or defensively he’ll cover for you – he has instincts along the offensive blueline, waits above for the defensive pucks. He plays the whole game.

On if anything over the last couple of days led to a strong start tonight:

We’ve talked a lot about our starts and consistency in our play. I thought we started really well. It was a combination of a really good start for us, but I don’t think it was a good start for Tampa. I thought we moved the puck extremely well. It was a game we just played with the puck on our stick a lot. That’s when we are frustrating. We just kept coming and had lots of chances, lots of time with the puck. It was a really good period for us in that sense, we didn’t have to defend very much at all. That was a real key for us was to try to keep the puck out of their hands and in their end.

AUSTON MATTHEWS (1 GOAL)

On having a few days between the California trip and tonight:

You have lots of time to reflect, it’s a five-hour flight so kick back and relax and nice to get a couple days off and try to get adjusted back to the time zone and time change and everything. Then have a good day of practice and just try to come out like we did tonight. The second period, I think, it got away from us a bit, lots of penalties but I think our first period is a good starting point for us and how we want to play. We’ve got to make sure we do that more consistently and throughout the game.

On Morgan Rielly’s leadership:

He’s extremely vocal and I think he’s a guy that everyone looks up to. I know for myself he’s one of my closest friends on the team and someone that helped me out, especially my first couple years. I spent a lot of time with him and I still do. He’s a great leader and a great teammate and really good person. To go along with his hockey abilities, he’s a guy we’re definitely happy to have back.

WILLIAM NYLANDER (1 GOAL)

On tonight’s win:

Well, obviously, the PK was great, and I think our power play got some big important goals today. We played solid through the first and third periods, so we want to clean up that second period.

On what was the key to the strong start tonight:

I think we had a couple days to feel fresh and we felt we were buzzing already in warmups.

On what worked well on the power play tonight:

I think we just kept it simple, tried to move it around and make easy plays and not force anything really. It was really good work.

MORGAN RIELLY (21:47 TOI)

On the important of consistency this time of year:

Yeah, we’ve talked about that before, we’ve talked about being more consistent and I think now more than ever, just given the standings, the time of year and remaining games, I think it’s an opportunity for us to start to play well and build some momentum. I think if you look back to this time last year our performances weren’t what we wanted them to be in time for playoffs and this year we’ve got a chance to fix that and change that. It’s important that we take that seriously and take the good things here tonight and talk about it tomorrow.

On the key to the strong first period:

Well, I think we moved the puck quick; we’re not holding onto it. For me, I think it was just D-zone execution and the importance of that. Going back, if we’re able to breakout, quick and create speed that way, it just seems to be smoother for us. It’s when you go back for pucks and you get beat back for pucks and you lose races, that’s when you tend to get hemmed in. I think that if we focus on that and that rhythm it creates more of a support system and we can move the puck forward with speed through the neutral zone.

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