Lightning-Maple Leafs Game 5 Bulletin: Losing Their Grip

Myth: There is no momentum in the playoffs.

Reality: There’s no game-to-game momentum in the playoffs.

But a strong change or a dominant stretch can lead a team to victory in a game that might have seemed lost.

Ask the Maple Leafs.

After trailing by two goals early in Game 5 of their season opener against the Lightning on Tuesday at Scotiabank Arena, the Leafs looked on course for a second straight loss and a 3-2 deficit in the best of the seven series.

In a start reminiscent of their 7-3 loss in Game 4, they allowed goals from Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman in the first seven minutes of a first half in which they were outshot 14-4 and went 0-for-3 on the power. cheek.

By then, even the staunchest Toronto fan must have felt like the Leafs had passed up another opportunity to win a playoff series for the first time since 2004.

But there was no panic at the Maple Leafs. Just a lot of desperation, as they rallied to push the Lightning to the brink of elimination.

Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (44) celebrates his goal with teammate John Tavares (91) during the third period of Game 5. [ FRANK GUNN | The Canadian Press via AP ]

Tampa Bay helped Toronto off the mat by failing to capitalize on a 30-second 5-on-3 in the first period and committing six penalties in the game, including two in the pivotal second period.

Toronto edged Tampa Bay 14-9 in the period and got its first goal on a John Tavares point on a William Nylander shot from the right circle on the power play, reducing its deficit to one goal.

The Leafs continued to pressure the Lightning net in the third, and Morgan Rielly and Nylander went 4-for-4 in the opening four minutes to give the Leafs a 3-2 lead, their first of the game.

Tampa Bay defender Ryan McDonagh briefly tied the score at 3 before Toronto regained momentum, restoring their lead on a shot from Auston Matthews into a wide-open net on a 2-on-1 with Mitch Marner following a turnover from McDonagh in the neutral zone. .

The good news for the Lightning is that no team has been able to win consecutive games in the series, even winning by three, four or even five goals. So this series is by no means over.

But Tampa Bay will need to win the remaining two games to rekindle hopes of a third straight Stanley Cup championship and avoid its first playoff loss since a first-round sweep by Columbus in 2019.

Grade: D

Here’s how we rated the rest of the Lightning’s performance in their 4-3 loss:

Too many penalties

The Lightning’s shorthandedness has been exceptional in the series, preventing the NHL’s top power play from scoring on 20 of 24 chances with the man advantage.

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Tuesday was no different, as Tampa Bay killed 5 of 6 man-down situations.

But the Lightning take too many penalties. They break line flow, steal momentum, and put unnecessary stress on penalty units.

Insane penalties, such as delayed play and too many men on the ice, are particularly infuriating, and the second too-man penalty in the game proved costly. It resulted in the Tavares goal, which cut the Maple Leafs deficit to one and gave Toronto the confidence it needed to get back into the game.

The Leafs have never looked back.

Grade: F

Signs of trouble

Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was the difference maker in a second period in which the Maple Leafs looked poised to take control of the game, making 13 saves to hold a 2-1 lead.

He was blurry in net as Tampa Bay spent far too long in their own end, stopping Colin Blackwell and Jason Spezza from the slot, and Mark Giordano and Marner from the point.

He also got help from McDonagh, who blocked a Matthews shot from the right circle with Stamkos in the penalty area for tripping.

But what seemed at the time to be life-saving plays instead turned out to be signs of trouble, as Toronto continued to apply pressure in the third, resulting in three goals to take the game lead and from the Serie.

Vasilevskiy faced just 25 shots in all, stopping 21, but he seemed to be under constant siege over the past two periods.

Grade: VS

Constant threat

Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) battles for the puck against Lightning left wingers Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (41) and Nick Paul (20) during the first period.
Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) battles for the puck against Lightning left wingers Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (41) and Nick Paul (20) during the first period. [ NATHAN DENETTE | The Canadian Press via AP ]

If there was a silver lining for the Lightning, it was the play of third line forward Nick Paul.

Paul, acquired from the Senators at the trade deadline, fought hard all over the ice: forechecking, eliminating penalties, face-offs and generating high-quality scoring chances.

Paul didn’t score, but he was one of Tampa Bay’s most dangerous players.

He picked up his second point of the series, assisting on McDonagh’s goal by collecting a puck in the corner and spinning it to Ross Colton, who fed McDonagh into the left circle. Paul finished with five hits, four shots on goal and a blocked shot in 17:15.

Yes, he was trying in vain to thwart Matthews on the winning goal, but this defeat does not fall on him. Never.

Grade: B

• • •

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