Rebounding from a poor performance in a five-goal loss to Vancouver, the Toronto goalie stopped 21 shots Tuesday night to beat Tampa Bay 4-2 and end the Lightning's season-high five-game winning streak. "Was he ever good. I'm sure he needed it," Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice said. "Good for him. Good for us. He was the best player on the ice."
Alex Steen snapped a third-period tie on the power play and Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky each had a goal and an assist in their first game off injured reserve. John Pohl also scored for Toronto, erasing a 2-1 deficit late in the second period.
"We battled all night. A real good effort," Raycroft said. "It's a great road win."
Vincent Lecavalier scored a short-handed goal in the first period for Tampa Bay, which was stymied by Raycroft on several second-period scoring opportunities before managing only two shots in the third.
In halting the streak Tampa Bay compiled with five consecutive one-goal victories, the Maple Leafs improved to 3-0 against Tampa Bay.
"We just couldn't solve Raycroft," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "He was the difference."
Antropov (ankle) and Ponikarovsky (shoulder) were activated from the injured list earlier in the day and both made an immediate impact. Antropov scored from the high slot after taking a pass from Ponikarovsky early in the second period.
Ponikarovsky added an empty-net goal in the final minute, with Antropov getting an assist.
But it was Raycroft's performance that really stood out for Toronto.
He allowed six goals on 21 shots against Vancouver, but was uncanny against the Lightning. Despite allowing Dan Boyle's goal late in the second, the goalie came up big in the period - making three nice saves on shots by Martin St. Louis and rejecting a fourth from Lecavalier.
Steen, who has eight goals in his last 10 games, agreed with Maurice's assessment that Raycroft was the best player on the ice.
"I don't even know how to describe it. It was amazing," Steen said. "Some of the saves he made were so big.
"We better credit it to him because he was outstanding."
Lecavalier has scored at least one goal in five straight games for the Lightning. St. Louis assisted on the all-star's 29th of the season, extending St. Louis' point streak to 12 games - one shy of the Lightning record he shares with Vinny Prospal and Brian Bradley.
Boyle's rebound shot gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead with 2:27 remaining in the second. Pohl countered with a rebound of his own to make it 2-2 with just 7.8 seconds left.
"That goal just fired the bench right up, and it's a big part in why we came out and had a third period like we did," Maurice said.
Tampa Bay goalie Marc Denis was sharp early, making a stop on Steen's point-blank shot from the right circle to start an exciting end-to-end sequence that produced Lecavalier's second short-handed goal of the season.
Denis finished with 24 saves, but there was little he could do to stop Steen from snapping the 2-2 tie when Matt Stajan nearly fanned on a shot, then chased down the loose puck and passed to Steen.
Notes: St. Louis has an assist in 10 straight games . . . To make room on the roster for Antropov and Ponikarovsky, RW Ben Ondrus and C Kris Newberry were assigned to Toronto of the AHL . . . Maple Leafs RW Darcy Tucker sat out his sixth consecutive game with a foot injury. He said he's still sore, but remained hopeful of returning as early as Thursday at Florida.