Toronto Maple Leafs lose to Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs – again

In what has become almost a spring ritual in Canada, the Toronto Maple Leafs have again been unceremoniously knocked out of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs in the first round.

The talent-laden Leafs again received an entry ribbon after losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1, in Game 7 Saturday night (May 14) in Toronto, two days after the Lightning forced a seventh game by beating the Leafs 4-3. in overtime.

Toronto was the number two seed of the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference en route to the playoffs. Tampa Bay — which has won consecutive Stanley Cups and aspires to become the first “threepeat” champion since the New York Islanders won four in a row from 1980 to 1983 — was the third seed. (The Montreal Canadiens hold the record for consecutive championships at five, from 1956 to 1960.)

On Saturday night, Tampa’s Nick Paul scored both goals for his new team after failing in the first six games of the series (he joined Tampa late in the season from the Ottawa Senators). After scoring his first late in the first period, he scored a second about three minutes after Toronto defender Morgan Rielly equalized in the second period.

That was the only score in the tight, hard-fought tilt, with Tampa goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy stopping 30 of Toronto’s 31 shots and Leafs’ Jack Campbell blocking 23 of 25 he faced.

Tampa Bay forward Brayden Point fell to the boards a minute before Paul scored his first goal and had to leave the ice. Point did not return in the game, but remained on the bench for the rest of the game.

Toronto, which has not made it to the second round of the playoffs since 2004, has now lost six seasons in a row in the first round.

Tampa has now won nine consecutive playoff series.

The Maple Leafs have not won the Stanley Cup since the 1967-68 season, when they defeated the Montreal Canadiens four to two.

Tampa captain Steven Stamkos told media after the game that the series was actually a fling. “We found a way to just grind and grind,” he said. “However, it could have gone either way.”

Veteran Stamkos – who finished the regular season with 104 points and has two goals and two assists in the playoffs so far – praised fallen teammate Point. “He’s a warrior. He’s the heart and soul of our team; he’s a great player.”

Toronto captain John Tavares, who had disallowed a goal in the second period, said after the game that the defeat is “hard to explain. It’s hard to fathom. At the end of the day, we didn’t achieve what we wanted to achieve.” .”

“It stings,” added the veteran center and four-year-old Maple Leaf. “It hurts; it is disappointing. There is certainly no doubt that belief [in the :Leafs’ ability] in the locker room is strong. We want to go all the way [to the Cup final]but we don’t seem to get past this first hurdle here [the first playoff round]†

Leafs striker Mitch Marner, who scored eight points in seven games, did not mince his words after the loss. “This is going to itch for a long time,” he said. “We’re getting tired of feeling this way.

“We work very hard all year to get to these competitions and give ourselves a chance…” Marner continued. “It’s just a shame we couldn’t do it for our boys.”

Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper then highlighted the strengths of both teams. “That was as balanced a series as you can see,” he said.

Cooper, a Prince George, BC native, who is currently the longest-serving head coach in the NHL at 10 years, said Point’s first-period injury was a major motivation for his players, who went into a defensive setting for the rest of the season. the game, checking and blocking shots. “When Pointer was injured, it was like the whole team was locked in and we never looked back,” he said.

“Basically, all 20 guys,” he praised, “you might as well 88 [goalkeeper Vasilevskiy’s number] on all their backs.”

Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe had little to say after the disappointing loss, a loss that saw his team suffocate again after a season in which the Leafs finished with 115 points and a record 54-21-7, their best season ever.

“We came up short,” said the third-year bank boss. “Seizing opportunities made the difference.”

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