Tampa Bay Lightning steal home ice advantage over Toronto Maple Leafs
By Neil Becker
The Leafs looked to stage a third period rally but fell short as they now head to Tampa Bay all tied up at a game apiece in their best of seven first round series against the Lightning.
As expected the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions Lightning played a lot better than in their Game 1 loss as they registered three power-play goals on Wednesday night in a 5-3 Game 2 win at Scotiabank Arena against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Toronto, who blanked Tampa Bay 5-0 in the playoff opener, found themselves trailing 5-1 just past five minutes into period three, when they scored the next two which with 4:17 remaining gave them some hope but it wasn’t meant to be.
Facing a red-hot Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Leafs who had 34 shots on goal, had some point blank chances only to be robbed by the 2019 Vezina Trophy winner.
Tampa Bay grabbed the momentum when with with only 2.4 seconds remaining in the first, defenseman Victor Hedman, who was on the Leafs goalie Jack Campbell’s doorstep got a lose puck and made a nice move in scoring a power play goal for a 1-0 Lightning lead.
Arguably Vasilevskiy’s best save came in the second when with the Leafs pressing for the equalizer, defenseman Timothy Liljegren fired a bomb from the blueline which was labelled for the top corner. The Lightning goalie, all of the sudden shot up his glove hand and made a miraculous save.
Hedman, who had a four point game, set up veteran forward Corey Perry for the second goal. His tape to tape pass sent Perry in alone on a breakaway where at the 2:21 mark he snapped home his first of the playoffs to give Tampa Bay it’s second goal.
Not long afterwards Toronto would energize the Scotiabank Arena fanbase as they split the deficit in half starting with a big hit from 60 goal man Auston Matthews. In the Lightning zone on the forecheck, Matthews threw a big hit on Tampa Bay defenseman Ryan McDonagh which led to him coughing up the puck.
Matthews then passed to Mitch Marner who in turn passed to Michael Bunting who just shy of eight minutes into the second scored his first playoff goal of the spring which electrified the Scotiabank Arena faithful.
Tampa Bay quickly snatched away the Leafs momentum as forward Nikita Kucherov made Toronto pay for an undisciplined penalty as the big Russian scored his first playoff tally two minutes and 10 seconds after Bunting’s which restored the Bolts two goal lead at 3-1.
Early in the third, Tampa Bay took control as they scored consecutive goals starting with deadline acquisition Brandon Hagel who scored his first at the 1:33 mark on a rebound followed by Brayden Point who a little over four minutes later scored on a power play to give them that four goal cushion.
As Leafs fans have found out throughout the year, their team is so explosive that they are never really out of a game.
As mentioned above the Leafs came back to make things interesting as Marner with his granny in the crowd scored his second of the playoffs at 11:53 which was followed almost four minutes later by forward Adam Kerfoot scoring short handed on a nifty drop pass from T.J. Brodie to round up the scoring.
The series now switches back to Tampa Bay where Game 3 will be taking place on Friday night with a 7:30 p.m. opening face-off.
With the split in Toronto, Tampa Bay has now stolen home ice advantage.
1st. Period TB- TOR
19:57 PPG- Victor Hedman (1) 1 – 0
Alex Killorn (1)
2nd. Period TB – TOR
2:21 Corey Perry (1) 2 – 0
Victor Hedman (1)
7:47 Michael Bunting (1) 2 – 1
Mitch Marner (3), Auston Matthews (2)
9:59 PPG- Nikkita Kucherov (1) 3 – 1
Victor Hedman (2), Steve Stamkos (1)
3rd. Period TB – TOR
1:33 Brandon Hagel (1) 4 – 1
Nick Paul (1), Nikitta Kucherov (1)
5:38 PPG- Brayden Point (1) 5 – 1
Nikkita Kutcherov (2), Victor Hedman (3)
11:53 Mitch Marner (2) 5 – 2
Jake Muzzin (1), Auston Matthews (3)
15:43 SHG- Alexander Kerfoot (1) 5 – 3
T.J. Brodie (1)