Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly was activated off injured reserve Tuesday and was in the lineup as the Maple Leafs outlasted the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in a pivotal game for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference.
Rielly, 26, one of Toronto’s alternate captains who missed 23 games because of a broken foot, had a shot on net in 27 shifts, occupying 21:47 on the ice. He was on the ice in the final minute, occupying crucial real estate in the Maple Leafs zone, as the Lightning had pulled goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, pushing for the tying goal.
Rielly also took a two-minute minor penalty in the win, which padded Toronto’s positioning in the No. 3 slot in the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division. With 81 points, the Maple Leafs lead Florida (78) for that division’s final berth.
Having last played Jan. 12, Rielly has three goals and 27 points in 47 games this season. Though the Maple Leafs went 11-9-3 without him, he is a welcomed addition who should occupy major minutes on the back line as Toronto prepares for the playoffs, especially with Jake Muzzin (broken hand) out of the lineup.
The Maple Leafs have been waiting for Rielly to return to the type of offensive production he posted last season, when he finished with 20 goals and 72 points. On Tuesday, he drew the start alongside Cody Ceci. Both finished even on the night.