(Toronto) Nicholas Paul hit the target twice and led the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 2-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
Posted at 10:13 p.m.
Paul’s brilliance, combined with that of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, helped the Lightning win the series 4-3 and advance to the next round. He will now face the Panthers, his rivals from Florida.
The two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning haven’t lost a series since being swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2019. The Tampa Bay squad won another Game 7 during this streak, last year, against the New York Islanders.
Vasilevskiy did a good job during the game, but he especially stood out in the third period. The Russian made 17 of his 30 saves in that span.
For the Maple Leafs, this is another hard-to-swallow failure. The team was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round for the sixth consecutive year. The Torontonians haven’t won a series and haven’t won a Game 7 since 2004.
Morgan Rielly was the lone scorer for the Maple Leafs, who squandered a 3-2 series lead. Since the 2017-18 season, they are 0-9 when given the opportunity to eliminate an opponent.
Jack Campbell had nothing to reproach himself for in this confrontation and he stopped 23 of the 25 pucks aimed at him in front of the Maple Leafs cage.
Wanting to avoid another hasty exit, the Maple Leafs started the game with a bang, but they didn’t shake the Lightning players, who have experience in this kind of situation.
Jon Cooper’s men were also the first to get on the scoreboard – a guarantee of success as the team that scored the first goal won five of the six matches in this series.
After a Maple Leafs two-on-one attack fizzled out, the Lightning responded with a three-on-two climb. Ross Colton fired a low shot that Campbell stopped, but Paul followed the play and with one hand pushed the puck into the back of the net.
In the second period, the home team believed they had tied the game, but an obstruction penalty to Justin Holl canceled out John Tavares’ goal. The whistle had also sounded, through the noisy crowd.
Rielly allowed the crowd to celebrate without restraint minutes later. Marner entered the opposing zone with the disc and passed it on to Matthews. The latter drew roofers before passing to Rielly, who deceived the vigilance of Vasilevskiy thanks to a precise wrist shot.
Paul, however, had not said his last word. The Lightning acquisition at the trade deadline showed great coordination to hold on to the puck and surprised Campbell with a snap shot just 3:07 after Rielly’s goal.
The Torontonians stormed into enemy territory and Vasilevskiy’s net in the final period, but the Lightning goaltender was brilliant, as were the players in front of him, to protect the one-goal lead.
The Tampa Bay team notably ran out a penalty in the first half of the engagement and closed the door when the Maple Leafs buzzed after removing their goaltender.