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NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs lost 4-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning


If we’re talking tennis, the Toronto Maple Leafs appear to have missed their first point in Game 5 of their first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

Sheldon Cave’s men fail to do what the Maple Leafs haven’t in the past 19 seasons, and advance to the second round of the playoffs with a 4-2 loss. Doubt should begin to settle in the Leafs who have historically struggled to make their way to the playoffs.

The good news is that the Leafs still have two more match points to complete this series. Game 6 will be played on Saturday under the blazing Florida sun.

Toronto, which hasn’t won a series since 2004, was eliminated by the Lightning in seven games in the first round last spring. Toronto is now 0-10 since 2018 when the club had a chance to get rid of the opposition.

If the Maple Leafs think they’ve identified goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy’s weakness after the antics of former Lightning assistant Derek Lalonde, nothing will show since the Russian gatekeeper has been solid in front of his cage. We saw him make important saves, including one in the third period when he broke away from Mitch Marner. In the first, Vasilevskiy also fought off back-to-back shots from Calle Jarnkrok.

Holding his own, Vasilevsky gave goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov the gift of lightning in second place with a goal to make the difference.

However, Vasilevsky was the one to surrender first in the first period when he was thwarted by Morgan Riley who scored in the third straight game to stir up hysteria at the Scotiabank Arena. The euphoria was short-lived, however, as 26 seconds later Anthony Cirelli tied the game for Tampa.

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Vasilevsky made 28 saves, while Samsonov made 34.

Riley is the first Leafs defender to score in three consecutive playoff games since Ian Turnbull in 1978. Riley is just one goal away from achieving the regular season goal.

Samsonov looked particularly bad on the winning goal scored by Michael Esimont who slipped the puck between his pads when he was on the right of the net. A shot that can haunt the Toronto goalkeeper for a long time or at least until the next Leafs win.

The second period ended in controversy. Pat Maron tackled Maple Leafs defenseman Mark Giordano from behind up the ramp. No penalty was initially called on the play, and Marron finally received a hard penalty at the end of the command that followed his gesture.

Giordano joined his teammates off the bench shortly after the start of the third period.

Nick Paul scored an important goal that gave Tampa two goals with less than ten minutes left.

Toronto pulled their guard with at least four minutes left and the strategy worked as Auston Matthews pulled within just one goal with 3:33 remaining.

Quebec’s Alex Killorn put an end to the duel with a goal into an empty net.

Details to come