NHL-Lightning keep away from elimination, spoil Maple Leafs’ get together plans



By Frank Pingue

TORONTO (Reuters) – The Toronto Maple Leafs’ hopes of celebrating a playoff collection win for the primary time in almost 20 years have been placed on maintain on Thursday because the Tampa Bay Lightning earned a 4-2 victory to increase their Stanley Cup playoffs first-round conflict.

The Lightning, coming off two time beyond regulation losses at residence, obtained targets from Anthony Cirelli, Michael Eyssimont, Nicholas Paul and Alex Killorn as they pulled to inside 3-2 within the best-of-seven collection.

The outcome spoiled what the Leafs, and their eternally optimistic fan base, have been hoping could be the evening they obtained to have a good time their first playoff collection win since 2004.

The loss means they’ve now dropped to 0-11 in attainable series-clinching video games since they final superior.

“Clearly we did not get the outcome however I do not assume it has something to do with the second or something like that,” Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe advised reporters.

“It is a good hockey crew we’re taking part in towards and so they performed as excellent a street sport as you could possibly ask for if you’re them.”

Lengthy earlier than the opening faceoff, a crowd of about 5,000 followers in a sea of blue and white Maple Leafs jerseys gathered outdoors the sector to look at the sport on an enormous display screen whereas these inside additionally got here hoping to be part of historical past.

Toronto struck first as Morgan Rielly beat netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy from the excessive slot just below six minutes into the sport however the lead was short-lived, the Lightning hitting again lower than a minute in a while a purpose from Cirelli.

Tampa Bay, who reached the Stanley Cup Last the final three years and gained in 2020 and 2021, pulled forward halfway via the second interval when Eyssimont beat Toronto goalie Ilya Samsonov from a pointy angle beneath the left circle.

Paul scored what held up as the sport winner 12 minutes into the third interval earlier than Auston Matthews pulled Toronto again to inside a purpose when he pounced on a unfastened puck with below 4 minutes left and Samsonov on the bench for an additional attacker.

With the house crowd on their toes and attempting to will their crew to victory, the Leafs stored Samsonov on the bench and threw all the things they’d on the Lightning however Killorn sealed it with 5 seconds left.

“There was only a calming presence of the bench,” mentioned Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos.

“For probably the most half tonight I assumed it was one other actually stable effort, this time we obtained the outcome.”

Tampa host Sport Six on Saturday when they may attempt to pressure a decisive seventh sport, which might be in Toronto on Monday.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Modifying by Peter Rutherford)