TAMPA, Florida –
Brayden Point scored at 6:04 PM in overtime when the Tampa Bay Lightning hit the . defeated Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 on Thursday to force a seventh and deciding game in their first-round playoff series.
The winger buried the winner after a rebound between the legs of Leafs goalkeeper Jack Campbell after Alex Killorn took the first shot.
Ondrej Palat, Anthony Cirelli and Nikita Kucherov had the other goals for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, who improved to a stunning 17-0 after a post-season loss since 2020.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 30 shots. Point also had an assist for a two-point night.
John Tavares, with two, and Auston Matthews answered for: Torontowhich has not progressed to the second round since 2004 and is now 0-8 in elimination matches over the last five playoffs.
Jack Campbell made 31 saves. William Nylander provided two assists.
The Leafs now head home for Saturday’s Game 7, desperate to exorcise the demons of the failed spring of the past with the weight of history and anticipation hanging around their collective necks.
Toronto is 7-2 all-time at home in Game 7s, but lost at Scotiabank Arena last season after losing a 3-1 series lead against the Montreal Canadiens.
Vasilevskiy has won all games that make up Tampa’s 17-0 record after losing in the last three playoffs, with a .945 save percentage with five shutouts in 16 wins before Thursday.
The 2019 Vezina Trophy winner and last season’s Conn Smythe Trophy recipient wasn’t his usual star in the series — his save rate was .880 heading into Thursday — but did enough tonight to get his team into Game 7 .
Trailing 2-0 in the second period after Cirelli’s highlight attempt with Tampa shorthanded, Matthews – named one of the three Hart Trophy finalists as NHL MVP earlier in the day – responded with his fourth of the playoffs 54 seconds later. when he tipped off the point shot from Mark Giordano.
Tavares then tied the score with 33.7 seconds left in the period when Vasilevskiy couldn’t control the rebound, while Jason Spezza meant out the fluttering puck before it bounced over the goal line.
Toronto‘s captain gave his team – who also fought back from a 2-0 deficit at home to win Game 5 trailing 4-3 – the first lead of the night with 7.8 seconds left as he hit his third in so many games in a stunned Amalie Arena.
The Lightning took a two-man lead for 1:45 halfway through the third, when David Kampf and Alexander Kerfoot were whistled in quick succession for high-sticking, and Kucherov came alongside at 9:20 when he fired his second at Campbell.
The Leafs complained that Tampa’s Brayden Point chinstrap was loosened during the series, but the goal stood.
Brandon Hagel then had a glorious chance to give Tampa the lead late in regulation, but he missed the net of tight with Campbell at his mercy.
Toronto had some great chances early in overtime, but Vasilevskiy was there to deny both Kerfoot and Ilya Mikheyev.
After their doors were blown off the same ice early in Game 4 en route to a 7-3 loss, the Leafs got off to a good start, but went under with the teams playing 4-on-4 late in the first.
Kerfoot made an ill-advised drop pass in the neutral zone to no one. Palat jumped on the turnover and moved on to Campbell before firing off his third of the playoffs under Campbell’s blocker with 2:22 left in the period.
Tampa got the first power play of the game with 28 seconds left in the period, but the Leafs survived and got the break despite Lightning Captain Steven Stamkos rattling Campbell’s mask on a poor one-timer.
Vasilevskiy made big stops on Ilya Lyubushkin and Matthews on the rebound early in the second before the Leafs got their first power play.
But it was the Lightning that knocked down a man when Cirelli picked up the puck after a Mark Giordano turnover – Torontosecond crucial foul of the night – and moved to the attacking zone. The Tampa center moved one-on-one against Giordano, using a spin-o-rama to create space before firing low on Campbell for his first of the series at 10:46.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 12, 2022.