Toronto Maple Leafs shutout Tampa Bay Lightning in Playoff Series Opener
By Neil Becker
No doubt the Toronto Maple Leafs believe that this is their time.
Coming off a record breaking regular season which saw them set franchise records of 54 wins and 115 points, the real test has just begun which is of course the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Leafs as all fans know all to well, have lost seven consecutive first round series and haven’t advanced to the second round since 2004. To put that in perspective, the last time they advanced Edmonton Oilers star forward Connor McDavid was only about six or seven years-old.
On Monday night at Scotiabank Arena, the Leafs simply dominated as both Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner led the charge with three points apiece as they blanked the back-to-back defending Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning 5-0 in their best of seven first round Playoff Opener.
Both Matthews and Marner are looking to exercise playoff demons from the past. Matthews scored only one goal and five points in their seven game first round playoff loss last spring to the Montreal Canadiens while Marner had no goals and four assist in that series.
Also making a loud statement was Leafs starting goalie Jack Campbell who on Monday night made 24 saves for the Game 1 shutout.
Playing in front of an enthusiastic full house, the Leafs special teams were solid as they successfully killed off five Lightning power plays and even got a highlight reel shorthanded second period breakaway goal from forward David Kampf.
Meanwhile they also scored a second period power-play goal from Matthews which set off MVP chants which were continuous throughout the night.
What really set the tone for Toronto’s penalty killing came early in the first when they killed off a five minute major to forward Kyle Clifford who got a game misconduct for hitting from behind.
The Leafs had some great opportunities but it wasn’t until the 18:19 mark of the first period when an unsuspected source in defenceman Jake Muzzin scored on a long point shot to give Toronto a 1-0 lead.
Toronto would take control in the second starting with Matthews who with the Leafs on a 5 on 3 power-play, got a pass from Marner and at the 6:13 mark fired home the Leafs second goal.
A little over three minutes later the Leafs were shorthanded when they added to their lead when Kampf outskated Tampa Bay defenceman Victor Hedman to a lose puck, and scored on a breakaway to make it a 3-0 game.
Late in the second, Marner finally got that giant monkey off his back as he scored his first playoff goal since April 2019, in the Leafs playoff series against the Boston Bruins.
In the third period, Tampa Bay showed lots of frustration as veterans Corey Perry and Pat Maroon tried to go after Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds. Also getting involed in the physicality were Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly, Ilya Lyubushkin, and Tampa Bay’s Jan Rutta.
Matthew’s second goal, which made it 5-0 came at 8:16 of the third when Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy came out of the net to try and get a dump in which he couldn’t handle. The puck went around the boards and right to Matthews who rounded out the scoring by shooting the puck into a half open net which once again was followed by MVP chants.
Obviously the Leafs couldn’t have written a better script for how things went in Game 1. Saying that. it will be that much more harder for the next game of this series which will be on Wednesday night, with a 7:30 p.m. opening faceoff at Scotiabank Arena.
1st Period TB- TOR
18:19 Jake Muzzin (1) 0 – 1
Ondrej Kase (1), Ilya Mikheyev (1)
6:18 PPG- Auston Matthews (1) 0 – 2
Mitch Marner (1), John Tavares (1)
9:27 SHG- David Kampf (1) 0 – 3
Mitch Marner (2)
16:39 Mitch Marner (1) 0 – 4
Morgan Rielly (1), Austin Matthews (1)
8:16 Auston Matthews (2) 0 – 5
Ondrej Kase (2), Morgan Rielly (2)