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For the first time in four seasons, the Lightning won’t be going to the Stanley Cup Final. And for the first time in 19 years, the Maple Leafs will be advancing in the playoffs.
John Tavares scored 4:35 into overtime Saturday night at Amalie Arena to lift the Leafs to a 2-1 victory in Game 6 of their opening-round playoff series, ending the Bolts’ season two months earlier than they have become accustomed in recent seasons.
Tavares’ spinaround shot from the left faceoff dot deflected off the skate of Tampa Bay defenseman Darren Raddysh past goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy for the game-winner.
Toronto won the best-of-seven series four games to two, its first postseason series victory since 2004. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, dropped an Eastern Conference playoff series for the first time since 2019.
The loss was the Lightning’s third in overtime at home in the series. They have dropped 10 of their past 11 overtime playoff games overall.
After a scoreless first period, Auston Matthews scored with just over six minutes left in the second to give Toronto a 1-0 lead.
Matthews slapped a shot from above the right circle over Vasilevskiy’s left shoulder. Leafs defenseman TJ Brodie kept the play alive at the blue line after Mikhail Sergachev failed to clear the puck out of the zone.
Steven Stamkos scored just over four minutes in the third period to tie the game. Stamkos, from just below the left circle, pushed a rebound of a Raddysh shot from the right point past Ilya Samsonov.
Stamkos had been moved to the second line with Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn at the start of the period, with Brandon Hagel moving up to play with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point on the top line.
For the third time in the series, the Lightning were left to wonder why their best effort wasn’t enough to win. Tampa Bay played physical from the start, applied constant pressure in the Toronto zone and outshot the Leafs 32-22, including 11-4 in the third period. Each team had one shot on goal in overtime.
Vasilevskiy stopped 20 of the 22 shots he faced. Samsonov, Toronto’s best player in the game, made 31 saves on 32 Tampa Bay shots.
Here’s how it happened:
Maple Leafs ice the puck
Nikita Kucherov shot blocked by Jake McCabe
Timothy Liljegren shot from right circle saved by Andrei Vasilevskiy
Mikey Eysimont shot from left circle saved by Ilya Samsonov
Eyssimont shot from the slot is blocked by Mark Giordano
Ian Cole shot just misses the net
Anthony Cirelli shot from slot wide of net
Sergachev shot blocked by McCabe
Morgan Rielly shot from left circle goes wide
MAPLE LEAFS GOAL: John Tavares spinaround shot from the left faceoff dot deflects off Darren Raddysh’s shot past Andrei Vasilevskiy for the game-winner. Maple Leafs 2, Lightning 1 (4:36)
(Maple Leafs win game 2-1 and series 4-2)
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Darren Raddysh shot from right point nearly rebounds to Anthony Cirelli in the slot
Ian Cole shot from center point deflected by Noel Acciari out of play
Zach Bogosian shot from right point saved by Ilya Samsonov
Nick Paul has a chance in front after Brandon Hagel shot from center point
Hagel now playing with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point. Steven Stamkos moves to Anthony Cirelli’s line
LIGHTNING GOAL! Stamkos ties the game on a rebound from the left post of a Darren Raddysh shot from the right point. Lightning 1, Maple Leafs 1 (15:49 to play)
Andrei Vasilevskiy stops Matthews from the low slot after a Jake McCabe shot from the left circle
David Kampf shot from high slot deflected up out of play
Mitch Marner shot blocked
Hand pass by Maple Leafs will bring faceoff out of the offensive zone
Nick Perbix shot from right point deflects off Point’s skate in on Samsonov, who covers the puck
Maple Leafs ice the puck
Sergachev snap shot from center point deflected up over the net
Matthews misses wide from the right circle after Noel Acciari forces Sergachev turnover in the Lightning zone
William Nylander shot from right side blocked by Cirelli
Nylander shot steered into the corner by Vasilevskiy
Bogosian shot from the neutral zone knocked away by Samsonov
Samsonov sprawls to stop Point from left post after pass from Kucherov from behind the net
Corey Perry decked by Jake McCabe at center ice
Raddysh shot from right point gloved by Samsonov
Nick Paul shot from low in right circle stopped by Samsonov
Colton backhander from the right circle off the rush saved by Samsonov
Nick Perbix shot from center point blocked
Matthews shot from center point blocked by Stamkos
Lightning ice the puck
Hagel takes a stick to the face from Brodie and goes to the bench, but no penalty is called
(Lightning and Maple Leafs tied 1-1 after regulation)
Maple Leafs ice the puck
Luke Schen penalized for high-sticking, and the Lightning get their first power play (19:37 left in period)
Steven Stamkos shot from left circle deflects off a skate into the corner
Nikita Kucherov shot deflected wide
Mikhail Sergachev shot from center point tipped wide by Alex Killorn
Killorn shot from low in right circle saved by Ilya Samsonov
Sergachev can’t keep the puck in the zone
Pass for Sergachev is wide of the mark, and the puck leaves the zone
Brandon Hagel shot from low slot saved by Samsonov
Maple Leafs kill the Schenn penalty
Schenn unable to jam the puck past Vasilevskiy
Michael Bunting hits the post from left circle
Ian Cole shot from left circle deflected up out of play
Sergachev sharp-angle shot blocked by Auston Matthews
Killorn shot knocked down
Sergachev slap shot from left point blocked by TJ Brodie
Killorn shot from high slot blocked by Matthews
David Kampf sends the puck in on Vasilevskiy from the right point
Centering pass just missed Morgan Rielly in the slot
Mark Giordano shot from left point
Erik Gustafsson shot from right point steered aside
Anthony Cirelli just misses Brandon Hagel with pass off the rush
Cirelli tip-in covered by Samsonov
Kucherov has two chances from the slot after faceoff win, the second hits Stamkos
Stamkos breaks up Toronto pass at Tampa Bay blue line
Bunting knocked off the puck in the Lightning zone
Matthews drive from center point blocked by Ross Colton
Timothy Liljegren shot from right circle misses wide
Vasilevskiy stones Nylander backhander from the top of the crease after centering pass from Marner
Hagel shot from right circle goes wide
Brodie shaken up after being driven into the end boards behind Lightning net
Kucherov shot misses wide after offensive-zone faceoff win
Alex Kerfoot backhander steered aside by Vasilevskiy
Colton shot from right circle misses wide on the stick side
Liljegren shot from behind the circles saved by Vasilevskiy
Liljegren takes puck away from Brayden Point in right circle
Matthews shot from left circle saved by Vasilevskiy
MAPLE LEAFS GOAL: Auston Matthews scores on a slap shot from above the right circle over Andrei Vasilevskiy’s left shoulder after TJ Brodie keeps the puck in at the blue line. Maple Leafs 1, Lightning 0 (6:13 left in period)
Brodie is penalized for tripping Anthony Cirelli, and the Lightning go on the power play (3:24 left in period)
Marner lifts the puck out of the zone
Stamkos one-timer from left circle saved by Samsonov
Calle Jarnkrok sends the puck the length of the ice
Stamkos hits post from left circle
Mark Giordano clears the puck
Pass gets past Victor Hedman and goes out to center ice
Leafs kill the penalty
Hedman shot goes wide
Brodie strips puck from Nick Paul and sends it down the ice
Matthews shot from right circle blocked by Sergachev
(Maple Leafs lead 1-0 after two periods)
Mikhail Sergachev shot blocked by Luke Schenn
Mikey Eyssimont shot saved by Ilya Samsonov
Zach Bogosian shot blocked by Ryan O’Reilly
Giveaway by O’Reilly
Giveaway by Nick Paul
Nikita Kucherov wrist shot saved by Samsonov
Victor Hedman wrist shot saved by Samsonov
Ryan O’Reilly shot from left point saved by Andrei Vasilevskiy
Schenn snap shot saved by Vasilevskiy
Schenn wrist shot saved deflected wide
Schenn pass deflected back in on Samsonov, who covers the puck
Pat Maroon and Schenn come together after the whistle
Matthrew Knies knocked down as he tries to shoot from slot
Brandon Hagel backhander from right circle grabbed and held by Samsonov
Nick Perbix shot blocked by Erik Gustafsson
Michael Bunting backhander from right circle off the rush saved by Vasilevskiy
Hedman drive goes wide of the net
Darren Raddysh shot misses wide
Hagel centering pass doesn’t get to Alex Killorn, who is tied up in front of the net
Samsonov stops Bogosian from low in right circle and then covers puck after it deflects off Brayden Point, setting up a scramble in front
Samsonov robs Ross Colton off the rush
Point loses the puck as he makes a spin move while moving toward the slot
Maple Leafs get their first power play as Steven Stamkos penalized for tripping William Nylander (12:21 left in period)
Vasilevskiy gets a piece of Nylander shot
Morgan Rielly shot from center point tipped wide
Victor Hedman clears the puck
Mitch Marner shot from left circle misses wide
Lightning clear the puck
Michael Bunting pass intercepted, and Lightning clear the puck
Alex Killorn skates the puck out of the zone and shoots from the left circle. Samsonov makes the save
Lightning kill the Stamkos penalty
Auston Matthews spinaround shot from above right circle saved by Vasilevskiy
Jake McCabe shot from left circle saved by Vasilevskiy
Vasilevskiy stops TJ Brodie shot from the right post
Samsonov stops jam attempt by Stamkos at right post after turnover in Toronto zone
Maple Leafs get their second power play, as Kucherov is penalized for tripping Brodie (5:05 left in period)
Marner shot from center point blocked, and Hagel skates the puck out of the zone
Rielly shot from point misses wide
Cirelli blocks Matthews shot from right circle. Killorn knocks the puck out of the zone and gets a shorthanded opportunity at the other end. Samsonov makes the save and stops a follow-up opportunity from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare from the slot
Gustafsson shot from left point is blocked, and Lightning kill the Kucherov penalty
Kucherov shot blocked
Stamkos centering pass doesn’t get through
Sergachev shot from left circle blocked
Raddysh shot from right point deflected wide
Hedman pass for Perbix in the slot tipped wide
Bunting shot from left circle off the rush misses wide
Tavares shot just ahead of the horn misses the net
(Lightning and Maple Leafs tied 0-0 after one period)
The end ... or just the beginning?
They’re not done yet.
And they might just be getting started.
With a victory Thursday in Game 5 in Toronto, the Lightning narrowed their deficit in their opening-round playoff series against the Maple Leafs to three games to two. Win tonight in Tampa and again Monday in Toronto, and a whole world of possibilities opens up.
The Lightning no doubt noticed that the Panthers took the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins to a Game 7, and the defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche needed a win Friday night in Seattle to extend their series against the Kraken to a seventh game.
The Rangers, who led the Lightning by two games in last season’s Eastern Conference final before succumbing in six, are on the ropes against the the Devils.
And, of course, the Lightning have the chance to eliminate the Maple Leafs.
Survive this series, and the Stanley Cup is there for the taking in a wide-open playoff field (OK, yes, the Metropolitan Division champion Hurricanes still lurk in the East).
But first, the Lightning have to take care of their own business, or they’ll be on the outside looking in.
For the third straight game, they looked like the better team in Game 5. But for the first time in that span, they were rewarded for their efforts, with a 4-2 victory that Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe called “as perfect of a road game as you could probably ask for if you are them.”
The Lightning were ferocious on the forecheck, forcing 19 giveaways (to their own 8), dominated zone time, responded immediately to the Leafs’ game-opening goal with one of their own, held the red line, killed both of their penalties and did a great job of filling shooting lanes and protecting the net in front of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
To be sure, Tampa Bay still has an uphill climb to reach the second round. But that ascent is one step shorter than it was two nights ago, and the Lightning will be playing in front of a friendly crowd at Amalie Arena, where they will have the advantage of the last line change.
If the pressure hasn’t shifted to the Maple Leafs, who haven’t won a playoff series since 2004, it’s quickly moving in that direction.
Imagine the pressure-cooker Scotiabank Arena will become for the Leafs Monday night if the Lightning can force a Game 7.
Who’s in/who’s out
Lightning waiting to see if Bunting will play
Sheldon Keefe was holding his cards close to his vest at this morning’s skate. Citing some possible injuries, the Toronto coach refused to discuss his lineup for tonight’s game.
So, the Lightning do not know if they will see physical forward Michael Bunting — whose errant elbow has sidelined defenseman Erik Cernak since Game 1 — on the ice for the possible elimination game or not.
What Lightning learned from previous Game 6s
Ahead of Game 6 down three games to two, the Lightning were asked this morning at Amalie Arena what they learned from being in the same situation during last season’s Stanley Cup Final against the Avalanche.
It was the same situation, though with higher stakes. But head coach Jon Cooper said his team might be able to draw even more from the Game 6 it played against Toronto in last year’s first round.
Game day scene
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