Leafs lose 4th straight, fall to Bolts in OT

All eyes in the Air Canada Centre were on Phil Kessel as he made his Toronto Maple Leafs debut on Tuesday night.

But the sniper and his new teammates had a tough time solving Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Antero Niittymaki.

Ryan Malone scored the game winner 2:21 into overtime as the Lightning defeated the Leafs 2-1.

Vincent Lecavalier also scored for Tampa Bay and Ian White netted Toronto’s lone goal.

The win marked Tampa Bay’s (5-4-4) first on the road, while Toronto (1-7-5) remains winless at home with an 0-4-2 record.

Toronto has lost in extra time in each of its last four games, but has picked up at least a point in each of the last five. 

Jonas Gustavsson had the start and made 29 saves for the Leafs while Niittymaki started for Tampa Bay and stopped 40 shots.

Kessel led all Toronto forwards with 23:50 total ice time and registered a career high 10 shots on goal. But he couldn’t find the net.

OT winner disputed

Malone scored the winner on a play that went under review, collecting a rebound and knocking Gustavsson down on the second attempt before the puck went into the net.

The NHL video reviewer decided the puck crossed the line before the net came off its moorings.

Leafs were down 1-0 when White tied the game at 5:04 of the third with a wrist shot that deflected off Lightning defender Matt Walker and beat Niittymaki on the powerplay.

Gustavsson had trouble controlling his rebounds all game long and Lecavalier took advantage of that near the end of the second.

The Swedish goalie turned the puck over to Mattias Ohlund and stopped a slapshot from the right face off circle, but left a big rebound for Lecavalier, who scored at 18:34, giving the Lightning a 1-0 lead.

With that goal, Toronto opponents have now scored first in 12 out of 13 games.

Niklas Hagman had a good scoring chance in the dying seconds of a powerplay with nine minutes to go in the second period. He was on a breakaway, but couldn’t get full control of the puck to fire a shot on goal.

Toronto had another strong chance with a few minutes to go in the second thanks to Kessel. The 22-year old exploded into the Lightning’s zone and fired a wrister over the crossbar.

He regained control of the puck and Niittymaki stopped his shot from the point.

Niittymaki kept the Lightning in the game by stopping 19 second-period shots and 29 through 40 minutes.

Just 13 minutes into the first period, Kessel skated into Tampa Bay’s zone with his head down and took a big hit from Ohlund.

He gave Leafs fans a scare when he went to the Leafs dressing room but returned a minute later.

Kessel was on the ice for a Leafs powerplay with four minutes to go in the first and fired a wrist shot at Niittymaki, but the goalie made a glove save despite being screened by two players.