TORONTO (AP) — Nick Paul scored twice, including an incredible individual effort on the tiebreaking goal late in the second period, and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 in Game 7 on Saturday to win their first round. playoff series.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 30 shots for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.
Morgan Rielly scored for Toronto, which hasn’t reached the second round since 2004 and is now 0-9 in elimination games in the past five postseasons after also losing 4-3 in Game 6 in Tampa, Fla., two nights before. Jack Campbell had 23 saves.
Once again, the Maple Leafs were unable to move forward and finally change a long and ugly narrative of playoff failure for a franchise that has now lost its last seven series, including six in the last six years.
Toronto is now 7-3 all-time at home in Game 7, including a loss at Scotiabank Arena last season after blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Montreal Canadiens.
Down 1-0 after 20 minutes in this one, the Maple Leafs appeared to tie the score at 11:28 of the second when John Tavares roofed a shot over Vasilevskiy, but the goal was disallowed after Toronto defenseman Justin Holl was called for interference. .
Campbell had to make a couple of desperate saves on the ensuing penalty to set the stage for Rielly’s equalizer in a Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews setup to score his third of the playoffs at 6:35 to send the crowd of 19,316 in a chaos. frenzy.
The goal was the first given up by Vasilevskiy and the Lightning in their last six series decider games.
William Nylander then missed high on a breakaway and the Tampa goalie stole Matthews to the Maple Leafs buzz.
But Paul scored his second of the night, and the second in playoff history, with 3:28 remaining in the period on an excellent play in which he kicked the puck from his skate to his post.
Scroll to Continue
Tampa nearly made it 3-1 late in the period when Kucherov hit the goalpost from the slot.
Vasilevskiy was under siege throughout Toronto’s power play just over six minutes into the third, but held off the home team despite some furious pressure.
Toronto continued to push inside an anxious and tense track as the clock ticked down.
The Maple Leafs, however, simply couldn’t figure out a way to get an additional skater to complete another chapter of playoff disappointment with Campbell on the bench.
Both teams had excellent opportunities for early breakthroughs, but Vasilevskiy and Campbell were present throughout.
Tavares almost scored on a big chance in the closing where Vasilevskiy fired his left pad before the 2019 Vezina Trophy winner denied Marner. Campbell then held the fort on a power play from Lightning in a couple of great looks for the visitors.
Brayden Point, who scored Tampa’s game-winning goal in Game 6 to extend the series, was injured late in the first when his right leg got caught under him as he fell to the ice. The striker, in agony as he headed down the tunnel to the locker room, tried to return for the second period but shut it down after a short turn.
The Lightning went up 10 moments after Point fell in the first when Paul, who had several chances in Game 5 with his team ahead before Toronto roared, scored his first. Campbell made the opening save on Ross Colton’s only time of the run to cut Rielly’s stick, but the rebound fell to Paul at 1:36 when Toronto allowed the first goal for the fourth straight game.
The Lightning were playing in their second Game 7 since the start of the 2020 playoffs after defeating the New York Islanders 1-0 at home in the semifinals last June.
This was Toronto’s first home Game 7 with fans (the club’s 2021 loss against Montreal was played in front of 550 healthcare workers due to COVID-19 restrictions) since 2004, when Joe Nieuwendyk scored twice to send off to the Ottawa Senators.