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Lightning won’t dwell on Maple Leafs’ playoff misfortunes

Toronto hasn’t won a playoff series since the first time the Lightning hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2004.
Lightning center Steven Stamkos, left, talks with coach Jon Cooper during the third period of Game 6 Thursday night against the Maple Leafs.
Lightning center Steven Stamkos, left, talks with coach Jon Cooper during the third period of Game 6 Thursday night against the Maple Leafs. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published May 13|Updated May 14

TAMPA — It’s no secret that the Maple Leafs have struggled in the postseason. The franchise hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004 and hasn’t lifted the Stanley Cup since 1967.

The Maple Leafs face another first-round playoff elimination Saturday when they take on the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning in Game 7 of their series at Scotiabank Arena.

Though history isn’t on the Maple Leafs’ side, the Lightning aren’t letting those thoughts creep in.

“(Their history) is not going to win us a game,” coach Jon Cooper said. “Whatever’s happened in the past, that’s really got no bearing on us. It does in their locker room, but we have to look back on what we’ve done in these situations.”

Related: Lightning win in overtime, force Game 7 vs. Maple Leafs

The Lightning played only one Game 7 in their past two Cup runs, last year against the Islanders in the league semifinals after they failed to close out the series when up 3-2.

Toronto’s last Game 7 win was in 2004, against Ottawa in the first round.

“You just have to bring it,” captain Steven Stamkos said of Game 7s. “You never know when that moment is in a game. It’s almost like you’re playing three overtime periods.

“That’s the magnitude of every shift, mistake, penalty, great blocked shot. You don’t know what that moment is going to be in a Game 7. You really have to just lay it on the line. Last time we had one of these, it obviously (was) one of the biggest wins in franchise history.”

Related: Forget the stars, awards and highlights, the Lightning had heart

Wing Alex Killorn echoed Stamkos’ sentiments, bringing up the Lightning’s 1-0 win over the Islanders in last year’s Game 7.

“One goal … was all that was needed to win that game,” Killorn said. “No one wants to take a risk that could eventually lead to a goal in their end, so everyone’s kind of playing that way.”

Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (71), left, and several Maple Leafs players vie for the loose puck during the second period of Game 6.
Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (71), left, and several Maple Leafs players vie for the loose puck during the second period of Game 6. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

The Lightning’s five previous series-clinching games were low-scoring affairs with shutout wins from goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, dating to 2020′s Cup final series win over the Stars.

The Maple Leafs are 0-9 in series-clinching games since 2013, 0-8 since 2016-17, the first season of now-stars Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

Related: Lightning’s Anthony Cirelli finally finds the net in Game 6

Matthews and Marner have combined for 15 points in this series (Matthews with four goals and four assists; Marner with two goals and five assists). And they understand what is at stake.

“What’s in the past is in the past,” Matthews said after Thursday’s Game 6 overtime loss to the Lightning at Amalie Arena. “We can’t change that now. It’s about this next game and going out there with a purpose, and with details, and just competing for 60 minutes or whatever it takes.”

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Said Cooper: “I don’t think we can look back at what’s happened in Toronto in the past and think, ‘Oh, we got this.’ We’d be sorely mistaken if that’s the attitude we took.”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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