The Toronto Maple Leafs have the Tampa Bay Lightning on the ropes
By Neil Becker
The back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champions are now officially on the ropes.
On Tuesday night in a sold out electric Scotiabank Arena, the Leafs overcame an early 2-0 deficit in pulling out a dramatic 4-3 Eastern Conference Game 5 first round playoff win against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
This victory, which has them in the drivers seat with a 3-2 series lead puts them one win away from doing something they haven’t done since 2004 which is advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs second round.
Scoring the winning goal was forward Auston Matthews who had the building rocking when on a two on one break with line-mate Mitch Marner, he scored at the 13:54 mark of third off a rebound.
Tampa Bay dominated the first where they outshot Toronto by a 14-4 margin and grabbed the momentum with a 2-0 lead.
Looking to silence the Scotiabank Arena crowd, the Lightning got two early first period goals starting with captain Steve Stamkos when at the 5:19 mark he scored his second playoff goal this spring which came from the slot against Jack Campbell.
Less than a minute later the Bolts doubled their lead as Victor Hedman scored his second, which came on the Power Play.
Early in the second, Toronto got a fortunate break when at the 3:35 mark they scored a power -play goal when a William Nylander shot hit John Tavares in the skate for his first playoff goal of the spring to cut the deficit to one.
Toronto quickly seized momentum in the third when starting at 3:01 defenseman Morgan Rielly scored his second playoff goal which tied things up at 2-2 to make it a brand new game.
The Leafs began to press and finally they were rewarded as Nylander a minute later sent the fans into a frenzy when he scored his third goal in the past two playoff games to give Toronto its first lead.
That lead lasted for a little over four minutes until Lightning veteran defenseman Ryan McDonagh blasted home his first playoff goal of the spring to once again make it a brand new game.
Late in the third period, overtime was looking like a distinct possibility until Matthews came through in the clutch.
Late in the third, Mitch Marner found himself on a two on one break with Matthews. Marner’s shot produced a big rebound which was stuffed home at 13:54 by Matthews which sent the Scotiabank Arena faithful into a frenzy.
In pulling out all the stops, Tampa Bay eventually pulled their goalie but to no prevail as the Leafs won and are now only one win away from eliminating the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions.
The Leafs will try to apply the knockout punch on Thursday night with a 7:30 p.m. opening face-off from Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay.
Note.. Leading the Leafs Game 5 offence was Nylander who had 1 goal, 3 points and was a +2.
1st. Period TB – TOR
5:19 Steven Stamkos (2) 1 – 0
Ondrej Palat (2), Nikita Kucherov (5)
6:11 PPG- Victor Hedman (2) 2 – 0
Nikita Kucherov (6), Alex Killorn (3)
2nd. Period TB – TOR
3:35 PPG- John Tavares (1) 2 – 1
William Nylander (1), Mark Giordano (1)
3:01 Morgan Rielly (2) 2 – 2
John Tavares (3), William Nylander (2)
4:14 William Nylander (3) 2 – 3
Ilya Mikheyev (2), Justin Holl (1)
8:17 Ryan McDonough (1) 3 – 3
Ross Colton (1), Nick Paul (2)
13:54 Auston Matthews (3) 3 – 4
Mitch Marner (5), Michael Bunting (2)