Toronto Maple Leafs lose to Tampa Bay Lightning and are out of the Stanley Cup playoffs in the first round – again

In what has become almost a springtime ritual in Canada, the Toronto Maple Leafs have once again been unceremoniously ejected from the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs in the first round.

The talent-laden Leafs received another turnout tape after losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1, in Game 7 on Saturday night (May 14) in Toronto, two days after the Lightning forced a seventh. game by beating the Leafs 4-3 in overtime.

Toronto was the number two seed in the Eastern Conference Atlantic Division heading into the playoffs. Tampa Bay, which has won back-to-back Stanley Cups and is aiming to become the first “three-time” champion since the New York Islanders won four in a row from 1980-1983, was the third seed. (The Montreal Canadiens hold the record for consecutive championships with five, from 1956 to 1960.)

On Saturday night, Tampa’s Nick Paul scored both goals for his new team after going scoreless in the first six games of the series (he joined Tampa from the Ottawa Senators late in the season). ). After scoring his first late in the first period, he scored a second about three minutes after Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly tied the second period.

That was all he scored in the tight contest, with Tampa goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopping 30 of Toronto’s 31 shots and the Leafs’ Jack Campbell managing to block 23 of 25 he faced.

Tampa Bay star forward Brayden Point fell to the boards a minute before Paul scored his first goal and had to come off the ice. Point did not return to the game, but remained on the bench for the remainder of the match.

Toronto, which hasn’t reached the second round of the playoffs since 2004, has now lost in the first round for six straight seasons.

Tampa has now won nine straight playoff series.

The Maple Leafs haven’t won the Stanley Cup since the 1967-68 season, when they beat the Montreal Canadiens, four games to two.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are chasing their third straight Stanley Cup, a trophy the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t won in more than half a century.
Wikimedia Commons/Alex Goykhman

Tampa captain Steven Stamkos told the media after the game that the series was basically a toss-up. “We found a way to just grind and grind,” he said. “However, it could have gone either way.”

The veteran Stamkos, who finished the regular season with 104 points and has two goals and two assists so far in the playoffs, praised his fallen teammate Point. “He’s a warrior. He’s a guy who is the heart and soul of our team; he’s a great player.”

Toronto captain John Tavares, who had a goal disallowed in the second period, said after the game that the loss was “hard to explain. It’s hard to comprehend. At the end of the day, we didn’t get what we wanted to get.” .”

“It hurts,” the veteran center and four-year Maple Leaf added. “It hurts, it’s disappointing. There is certainly no doubt that the belief [in the :Leafs’ ability] in the locker room is strong. we want to get to the end [to the Cup final]but we can’t seem to get past this first hurdle here [the first playoff round].”

Leafs forward Mitch Marner, who scored eight points in the seven games, didn’t mince words after the loss. “This is going to hurt for quite some time,” he said. “We are getting sick and tired of feeling like this.

“We worked really hard all year to get to these games and give ourselves a chance…” Marner continued. “It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t pull it off for our guys.”

Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper emphasized the strengths of both teams afterward. “That was as close a series as you’re going to see,” he said.

Cooper, a native of Prince George, BC, who is currently the longest-serving head coach in the NHL at 10 years, said Point’s injury in the first period was a key motivation for his players, who adopted a defensive mindset. for the rest of the game, reviewing and blocking shots. “When Pointer got hurt, he seemed to shut down the whole team and we never looked back,” he said.

“Basically the 20 guys,” he praised, “might as well put up 88 [goalkeeper Vasilevskiy’s number] on all their backs.”

Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe didn’t have much to say after the disappointing loss, one that caused his team to choke again after a season in which the Leafs finished with 115 points and a 54-21 record. -7, his best season.

“We fell short,” the third-year bank chief intoned. “Seizing opportunities was the difference.”

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