The Toronto Maple Leafs welcomed the Tampa Bay Lightning to town tonight. Winners of multiple recent Stanley Cups, but more recently celebrated as the team the Leafs defeated to win their first playoff round since 2004.
A team stacked with talent, who know how to use their gifts and their grits. The Leafs haven't had the easiest time with high quality teams as of late, but they gave it their all tonight.
Early on in the first period, on the Leafs second shot of the game, Matthew Knies opens the scoring for the Leafs.
After the puck is dropped post-goal William Nylander jumps onto the ice and gets a loose puck, takes it in alone on Jonas Johansson but is unable to convert the shot. Off that play the Lightning clear the zone and Victor Hedman gets one past an out of position Ilya Samsonov to tie the game up again 36 seconds later.
Less than two minutes later, Nikita Kucherov gets a good chance in the Leafs zone, taking advantage of a gap left by Bertuzzi and Nylander, and he scores the Lightning's second goal of the game.
2-1 Tampa Bay. Three goals in three minutes, but only one for the Leafs. Not what we wanted to see early on. Samsonov isn't looking great early on, and the Leafs gave up the lead much quicker than normal.
This is a very good team they must match every time they play each other to go far in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning are getting too many opportunities to set up in the Leafs zone, getting clear passing lanes and spend plenty of time in front of the Leafs net smacking the put at Samsonov.
The Maple Leafs are spread out when on the offensive, dumping the puck, and being forced away from the net by the Lightning.
The Lighting are first to the powerplay, when the Leafs are called for too many men on the ice. The Leafs penalty kill keeps the Lightning out of the centre of their zone, but they aren't covering passes well and leaving people too open, such as Kucherov who gets on one knee for the shot in the faceoff circle and Samsonov is late reacting and getting across the crease.
William Nylander gets the puck off the face off, is tripped and the call is made, maybe a bit late, but it gets called.
The Lightning have the 7th best PK, the Leafs have the 5th best PP, but #7 is doing much better at their job than #5. Leafs aren't getting to set up as the Lightning did, Lightning are getting to dump the puck out more. Nylander gets a nice chance but it's saved, and off the rebound the short handed Lightning get a two-on-one but thankfully don't score.
With 11 seconds left, the Leafs lose their advantage when Mark Giordano is called for slashing. 11 seconds of four-on-four then a Lightning power play.
Tampa is having a bit of a harder time on the power play, but they still get to set up and have room in the Leafs end, and it takes longer but Brayden Point is able to shoot right from the slot in front of Samsonov, who is again out of position, and the Lighting take a three goal lead.
4-1 Tampa Bay
Joseph Woll takes over the Leafs net with five minutes left in the first period. Four goals on 13 shots for Samsonov.
The Leaf end up getting some nice offensive zone time, trapping the Lighting in their own end, passing the puck nicely, getting a couple shots, but they can't beat Johansson or the Lightning shot blockers.
The first period ends 4-1 Tampa Bay, who also lead in shots 14-9.
The second period starts in the Leafs favour, with the first few minutes spent exclusively in the Lightning zone, Johansson is put to the test, especially by the Tavares, Nylander, Bertuzzi line. Saves, pings, and shots are the order of the day.
Still in the Lightning end, the Leafs are able to swap forward lines and put the top line back on. With Matthew Knies right in front of the net, Auston Matthews snaps a hard shot from the blueline and it gets in the Lightning net.
4-2 Tampa Bay.
Nick Robertson is making his NHL debut for this season tonight, and the crowd is behind him. His line comes in against the Lightning with the puck and he rips a shot but its wide. The crowd roars in anticipation then groans together in disappointment.
The top line comes right back after the switch with the Robertson line, and Matthew Knies is proving he belongs as a top line forward. With a backhand spinning pass he fins Auston Matthews who slips the puck in five hole and it's a one goal game.
4-3 Tampa Bay
The Maple Leafs get right back into the Lightning zone, and rip shots from the point on net. The crowd is eating it up but, like, where were these guys in the first? Is it Woll? Do they just prefer to play in front of him?
TJ Brodie comes close to tying the game, flying into the zone with Max Domi, and the crowd is very into this game now, after being shushed earlier by quick Lightning strikes.
The Leafs are doing so well in the second that even John Klingberg gets to easily skate down the ice and take a shot on the Tampa net, a very good transformation between periods.
The Maple Leafs get another power play chance after Conor Sheary gets called for tripping. The power play isn't as exciting as their five on five has been this period, the Lightning penalty kill is very good. The Leafs are getting to set up more than last time, but the Lightning are clearing the puck well. No goal, one shot on that power play.
The Leafs are playing well offensively this period, Matthews almost get another hat trick, but the Lighting are catching passes and clearing the zone. Occasionally getting a chance on Woll, who is handling the talent in Tampa much better than Samsonov.
The second period ends 4-3 for Tampa, the Leafs lead 20-18 in shots.
The third period is a little more even than the second to start, both teams getting some offensive time, both goalies getting tested.
The first one to pass is Calle Järnkrok and Nick Robertson, who team up to tie the game with Järnkrok getting a rebound right in front of the net.
Tied at fours.
Then, right off the face off, just as they start to announce the previous goal, Mitch Marner takes the puck at the blueline and snipes one into the net to get the Leafs their lead back.
Matthew Knies takes a hooking penalty, giving the Lightning their third power play of the game, and they are 2/2 so far tonight. The Lightning get denied as Woll and the PK up their game to keep Tampa away from the net.
The Lightning come close to tying the game as we approach the halfway mark of the period, This isn't horseshoes however, so the attempts don't count on the scoreboard.
We get a scrum in the Leafs end, after the Leafs drew a penalty. It starts with Klingberg and Point, then everyone jumps in. Whistle, whistle, whistle. Maybe they were trying to get the Leafs a penalty of their own to offset? Didn't work if that was the plan.
This powerplay is either working much better or the Lightning are tired, either way the Leafs are getting chances, passes, and setting up well. Not well enough to score, and the Leafs go to 0/3 tonight.
After the powerplay, there's an official quorum to decide if Nick Perbix is highsticked or gets hit by a follow through. They decide Tyler Bertuzzi is innocent, and Jon Cooper is yapping at the refs after this.
In a board battle a Lightning player goes down and complains but very loudly, the ref just tells him to play the puck. Shut up random Lightning player.
Play the puck they did, as Brandon Hagel takes advantage of a rebound and open net and scores the tying goal.
5-5 with 2:26 left.
The final minutes of the period are uncomfortably spent in the Leafs end, but we escape without a goal against, and it's off to overtime.
Shockingly, Auston Matthews is out to take the faceoff to start the overtime.
Right off the draw Mitch Marner sets Auston Matthews up for a slapper on the Lightning net, but it gets stopped. Marner can't catch up to the rebound in time and the Lightning clear it.
The Leafs switch to Nylander-Järnkrok-Rielly and they quickly enter the Lighting zone, pass the puck around and Järnkrok gets his second of the game, and Nylander's point streak stays alive in the nick of time.
It was very ugly to start the game, and picked up as it went. The Maple Leafs defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-5 in overtime, and the Lightning are on an 11 game losing streak in overtime.
The Maple Leafs next game is Wednesday night at 7PM, at home against the Ottawa Senators. That should be a fun one.
See you all then, and Go Leafs Go!