Nick Paul scored twice, including an incredible winning solo effort late in the second period as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 in Game 7 on Saturday to win the first-round playoff series 4-1. 3.
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves for the two-time Stanley Cup champion.
Morgan Rielly answered for Toronto, who has not progressed to the second round since 2004 and is now 0-9 in games where he can eliminate an opponent in the last five postseasons after losing Game 6 by a 4-3 score in overtime. in Tampa two nights earlier.
Jack Campbell stopped 23 shots.
Despite their best efforts, the Leafs were once again unable to push through and finally launch a long, ugly narrative of playoff failures for a franchise that has now lost its last seven series, including six straight since 2017.
Toronto are now 7-3 at home in Game 7, including a loss at Scotiabank Arena last season after losing a 3-1 series lead against the Montreal Canadiens.
Trailing 1-0 in Saturday’s 20th minute, the Leafs appeared to tie the game at 11:28 of the second when John Tavares hit a shot at Vasilevskiy, but the goal was disallowed after Toronto defender Justin Holl was whistled for interference. .
Campbell had to make some desperate stops on the ensuing penalty to set the stage for Rielly’s tie in a Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews setup to score his third playoff at 6:35 to send the crowd of 19,316 into a frenzy of chaos. .
The goal was the first scored by Vasilevskiy and Lightning in the last six decisive games of the series.
William Nylander then missed high on a breakaway and the Tampa goalie stole Matthews with the Leafs buzzing.
But Paul scored his second of the night – and second in the playoffs – with 3:28 left in the period in a fantastic play where he kicked the puck from the skate to the bat.
Tampa nearly made it 3-1 late in the period when Kucherov hit Campbell’s post.
Vasilevskiy was under siege during a Leafs power play just over six minutes into the third, but kept the home side at bay despite some furious pressure.
Toronto continued to press inside an anxious, tension-filled rink as the clock ticked by.
The Leafs, however, simply couldn’t find a way with Campbell on the bench for an extra offense to complete yet another chapter of playoff disappointment.
Both teams had great opportunities for early advances, but Vasilevskiy and Campbell were there at all times.
Tavares nearly opened the scoring on a great close-up chance, where Vasilevskiy kicked his left pad before the 2019 Vezina Trophy winner denied Marner.
Campbell then kept it strong on a Lightning power play in some great looks for the visitors.
Brayden Point, who scored Tampa’s winning goal in Game 6 to extend the series, was injured at the end of the first when his right leg became trapped underneath him as he fell to the ice. The winger – in agony as he made his way down the tunnel to the locker room – tried to come back for the second period, but it closed after a brief inning.
Lightning went up 1-0 moments after Point dropped in the first as Paul, who had several chances in Game 5 with his team ahead before Toronto roared back, scored his first.
Campbell made the opening stop on Ross Colton’s only goal in the run that cut Rielly’s bat, but the rebound fell to Paul at 1:36 as Toronto yielded the first goal for the fourth straight game.
Lightning were playing only their second Game 7 since the 2020 playoffs began, after beating the New York Islanders 1-0 at home in the semifinals last June.
Toronto’s last 7 home game with fans – the club’s 2021 loss to Montreal was played in front of 550 healthcare workers because of COVID-19 restrictions – since 2004 when Joe Nieuwendyk scored twice to bring down the Ottawa senators.
The Leafs didn’t make the playoffs again until 2013, when they went down in Game 7 against the Boston Bruins. The club’s new generation reached the playoffs for the first time in 2017, but suffered a series of heartbreaks that continued into Saturday night.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 14, 2022.