Maple Leafs win in Game 6 to advance in NHL playoffs
The Maple Leafs finally exorcised their playoff demons and advanced to the second round of the NHL playoffs.
Jon Tavares scored with 4:36 in overtime, Ilya Samsonov made 31 saves, and Toronto beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 on Saturday to win the series 4-2 and advance to the postseason for the first time in nearly 20 years. has advanced to
The Leafs captain threw the puck out of the Lightning defense, Darren Radish’s skate, before a winning sequence that came in to spill the Toronto player off the bench.
Orston Matthews had a goal in regulation for the Leafs, who were under intense pressure to finally make it through the playoffs after a string of failures last spring, including a seven-game loss to Tampa.
Stephen Stamkos answered the Lightning that saw their third consecutive trip to the Stanley Cup finals come to an end. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped his 20 shots.
The Leafs last made the NHL Best 8 in 2004, before the league introduced a salary cap, before Twitter, and after Paul Martin became Canada’s 21st Prime Minister. It was just over a month after they defeated the Ottawa Senators in seven games.
Joe Nieuwendyk was the hero of the night scoring two goals in the first period over the erratic Patrick Laraime. Toronto lost their second round matchup to the Philadelphia Flyers, with Jeremy Roenick scoring the game-winning goal in overtime in Game 6.
The wait for another series win in hockey’s biggest market lasts 6,948 days.
The Leafs lost 10 straight games on Saturday and had a chance to eliminate an opponent dating back to the beginning of the Matthews-Mitch Marner era in 2018. A process that stumbles on the first postseason hurdle for the sixth year in a row.
Toronto’s record for winning the series, including a first-round loss in 2013, was 0-11 before the puck drop. This is the second longest winning streak in NHL history.
After winning the Cup in 2020 and 2021, in last year’s final at home to Colorado in Game 6, the Lightning tied 1-1 at 4:11 in the third as Stamkos rebounded to double the series. I decided on my eyes.
Matthews opened the scoring at 13:47 of the interim period when he blew a one-timer over Vasilevski’s shoulder for his series-leading fifth goal. Stamkos hit the post on a second-half power play to match Toronto’s Michael Bunting for a crossbar hit in the first half of the second.
Samsonov made a big stop on Stamkos early on and Vasilevski denied TJ Brody after Marner’s great work.
Toronto had only one power play in the first 20 minutes, but Tampa had the best opportunity with shorthanded chances off the sticks of Alex Quilone and Pierre-Edouard Bellmare.
The Leafs made several lineup changes ahead of Game 6 as a tornado warning was issued for the area that canceled the Lightning’s fan viewing party outside the Amalie Arena.
Bunting returned after sustaining a healthy injury on Thursday after receiving a three-game suspension for an illegal check to the head on Tampa defenseman Eric Sernak’s series opener.
Suffering Blue Liner Justin Hall sat in favor of Timothy Liljegren and Eric Gustafsson, while wingers Zach Aston Reese and Sam Lafferty also sat in the press box, as the Leafs had 11 forwards and seven. I watched him go on defense.
Tampa defeated Toronto, 7–3, in Game 1, but lost Cernak in a sequence that continued a minute-to-minute defense that sidelined the rest of the series.
Toronto won 7-2 two nights later to extend the winning streak in overtime in Tampa. This includes his 5-4 decision after building a 3-1 series lead, trailing 4-1 midway through the third period on Monday.
The Lightning signed a much-needed deal with the Leafs on Saturday after staving off an elimination with a 4-2 win at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday.
Toronto’s loss to Tampa in last year’s playoffs saw the organization lose its sixth straight opener and faced tougher questions about roster composition, management philosophy and coaching.
The Original Six franchise has decided to stay on course with its expensive core players, general manager Kyle Dubus and head coach Sheldon Keef.
The decision paid off.
The Leafs have made the playoffs only once in 11 years, after the 2004-05 lockout. Their only appearance ended in a stunning Game 7 collapse against Boston.
Toronto, which already had Marner, Lerry and William Nylander in their system, bottomed out for first-draft rights to Matthews in 2015-16.
The Leafs returned to the playoffs the following spring, falling to Washington with a solid showing from a young roster.
Toronto followed that up with a seven-game loss to Boston twice more in 2018 and 2019.
The Leafs then stumbled in the NHL’s COVID-19 bubble in 2020 by Columbus. After dominating the league’s pandemic-needed North Division in 2021, Toronto blew a 3–1 series lead before losing to Montreal by 7 to score another surprising low point.
The Leafs started turning corners last year by going up against the battle-tested Lighting. OT lost Game 6 and took the lead in the third period in Tampa.
A year later, all that heartbreak is in the past.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 29, 2023.