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What happened to the whistles in Game 5 of Lightning-Maple Leafs series?

After 11 penalties were called in the first 43 minutes, no infractions were cited over the final 17.
Lightning left wing Pat Maroon (14) talks with an official as he heads to the penalty box during Game 1 on April 4 at Amalie Arena.
Lightning left wing Pat Maroon (14) talks with an official as he heads to the penalty box during Game 1 on April 4 at Amalie Arena. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published May 12|Updated May 12

TAMPA — For nearly 18 minutes Tuesday night, the Lightning and Maple Leafs saw for one of the few times in their first-round series what a game could be like with some ebb and flow.

A tightly called series in which penalties have played a significant role seemed to shift in the third period of Game 5, as officials’ whistles suddenly went quiet.

After 11 penalties were handed out over the first 42-plus minutes, none were called over the final 17:35.

The last of them, a high-sticking penalty against Lightning captain Steven Stamkos 2:25 into the third period (10 seconds after the Maple Leafs’ David Kampf was called for hooking) proved pivotal, as Toronto scored twice during the resulting 4-on-4 to take its first lead of the game.

“For whatever reason, the standard’s been set this postseason, at least in our series, anyways, that they’re calling a lot,” said Stamkos, who was penalized twice in the game. “... There’s so many penalties, there’s not a lot of 5-on-5 flow. Even the two (Toronto) goals, 4-on-4 there, it’s just, for whatever reason, it’s different this year. But it’s the same way for both teams.”

Historically, there have been fewer penalties called during the playoffs, as officials allow players more leeway during what amounts to a two-month battle of attrition for the Stanley Cup.

But that hasn’t been the case this season, as the Lightning and Maple Leafs have combined for 225 penalty minutes over the first five games of their best-of-seven series. Toronto has averaged 24.4 PIM per game, the Lightning 20.6.

The next-highest-penalized series has been Oilers-Kings, with a combined 180 penalty minutes through the first five games.

Penalties in Lightning-Maple Leafs Series
Period 1 Period 2 Period 3
Game 1 5 (3 TBL) 7 (4 TBL) 12 (5 TBL)
Game 2 4 (2 TBL) 3 (2 TBL) 4 (3 TBL)
Game 3 4 (3 TBL) 3 (2 TBL) 1 (0 TBL)
Game 4 4 (2 TBL) 7 (2 TBL) 6 (3 TBL)
Game 5 7 (4 TBL) 2 (0 TBL) 2 (1 TBL)
Total Number of Penalties by Period 24 (14 TBL) 22 (10 TBL) 25 (12 TBL)

“It’s been a weird playoff for me,” veteran Lightning forward Pat Maroon said. “I’ve never seen this amount of penalties before in a playoff. It seems like it’s preseason again with all the calls on both sides. Everyone’s getting rewarded on both ends. It’s not like Toronto’s getting more power plays or more penalties than us. It’s just on both ends.”

Ever since they were called for 12 penalties in a 5-0 loss in Game 1, the Lightning have acknowledged a need to adapt to the way the series is being officiated.

But what is being called and not called — and when — has been frustrating for the two-time defending champions to figure out.

In the second period of Game 5, Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews appeared to leave his feet to hit Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev from behind, knocking Sergachev face-first into the boards. No penalty was called.

With just under six minutes remaining in the game, Stamkos skated through the neutral zone with the puck on his stick. After he passed it up the ice, he was hit in the face with a high stick by John Tavares. Officials let the teams play on.

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“I was just frustrated there at the end, I take that stick right in the face when I had the puck and thought, ‘OK, everything’s being called (Tuesday) by the book.’ It just wasn’t called,” Stamkos said. “That was tough, but, I mean, the standard’s been set.”

Maroon said the Lightning will take the heavy-hitting penalties. As for the rest, all they can do is watch their stickwork, move their feet, check with their legs and try to stay out of the box.

“It’s out of our control,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do, because at the end of the day, both teams are getting power plays, right?”

• • •

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