SIMMONS: The ghost of Boston previous has Maple Leafs inside a win of knocking off Tampa Bay Lightning


The rating and the circumstance have been part of the current unhappy playoff historical past of the Maple Leafs. A 4-1 lead. Within the third interval. All you need to do is point out the moments and a few Maple Leaf fan someplace will groan and order a drink.

The 4-1 rating within the third interval had the Leafs trailing Monday night time in Tampa. Towards the four-time Stanley Cup finalists. The indestructible two-time champion Lightning. It wasn’t the Leafs lead. This wasn’t Boston. This wasn’t a playoff recreation blown in regulation and misplaced in extra time.

As an alternative, it was virtually the alternative.

It was the Leafs trailing 4-1 within the third interval at Amalie Enviornment. It was their mountain to climb not one to slip down from. It was the biggest and most vital victory of the Auston Matthews-Mitch Marner period — Toronto’s third straight win over the Lightning, the Leafs second straight extra time win when being outplayed in these two video games.

The 4-1 debacle in Boston is a recreation nobody will ever overlook. It ended a sequence. It meant an upset of big proportions wasn’t going to occur. On Monday night time, none of that occurred to be true for a Leafs group that’s taking steps, each big and tiny, each playoff night time, after they get outplayed twice in a row and discover methods to name them wins.

“Each video games should not the way you’re going to attract it up,” stated Leafs’ coach Sheldon Keefe, with the Leafs now holding a 3-1 lead within the best-of-seven sequence.

Nothing says extra concerning the progress of this Leafs group than Matthews scoring the 2 largest playoff objectives of his profession and Alex Kerfoot, who virtually by no means scores, tipping in a puck previous Andrei Vasilevskiy in extra time to provide the Leafs a 5-4 win.

How a lot did the win matter? You may witness that within the vibrant pink face of coach Keefe on the bench, not pink from the Florida solar, however pink from the explosion of feelings of taking part in poorly early, falling behind, wanting misplaced, wanting overwhelmed, in some way battling again, in some way tying the sport, in some way profitable it on a Kerfoot aim of all individuals.

The primary Kerfoot aim in 10 video games and 20 days.

That is the way you win and are available again within the playoffs when it’s 4-1 and it looks like you don’t have any probability — or in the event you’re main 4-1 because the Leafs had been in Boston in 2013 — after which sat on the ropes and took punches till they had been out of breath on the finish. This time, they had been punching again.

It takes a group to get to this place, one victory away from advancing to the second spherical for the primary time since 2004. You may see what it meant to Keefe and the color of his face. You may see what the win meant to common supervisor Kyle Dubas and his assistant Jason Spezza, who leaped with pleasure when Kerfoot tipped the Mark Giordano shot previous Vasilevskiy.

One minute they’d the look that they’d all be out of labor in per week, the coach, the GM, the entrance workplace. The following minute, they had been hugging and shaking arms and sharing excessive fives: They gained the sport, however they postponed the inevitable for now. They reside to play one other recreation — and if in some way they’ll beat the Lightning 4 straight, which appears numerically inconceivable at playoff time — they get to exhale and push the pressures to the aspect. They get to have fun and transfer on and play for the gravy that will be the second spherical.

How did the Leafs do it on Monday night time? They acquired pure ability objectives from Matthews, the star taking part in the a part of the star. They acquired the winner from Kerfoot, the primary help from Giordano. That wasn’t on anybody’s bingo card. That they had the rookie Matthew Knies, composed sufficient to tug a aim off the aim line because it was scoring. That they had the hold-your-breath goaltender Ilya Samsonov being simply adequate when he needed to be. That they had William Nylander, who Keefe clearly didn’t like his recreation, taking part in all of 14:21 on an extra time night time, that’s much less ice time than 13 different Toronto gamers, ending the night time with a game-high three factors, all of them assists.

That’s what Nylander could be generally. He’s so supremely gifted he can accomplish that a lot in so little time. Mitch Marner performed 12 minutes greater than Nylander and had one fewer level. Statistics don’t imply all the pieces when Kerfoot, so standard within the dressing room, so unpopular amongst Leaf followers, scores the winner.

“For this reason you play,” stated Morgan Rielly, who despatched the sport to extra time one recreation after scoring the extra time winner. Performs made by the celebrities on the roster. Gamers made by the also-rans. The most effective, the center and the underside all contributing to this mammoth Maple Leaf win.

This will not erase 4-1 in Boston. Who is aware of if something can? Nevertheless it’s 10 years later and the rating was 4-1 Monday night time in Tampa, the sequence seemingly tilting in favour of the Lightning. And immediately it wasn’t.

And the Leafs at the moment are a win away from the second spherical and a brand new type of historical past. The Leafs are on the proper aspect of 4-1 within the third interval.

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