Time: 7:30 PM EST
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: BSSUN, TBS, TVAS, SN, CBC
Opponent SBNation Site: Pension Plan Puppets
After dropping Game Five against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning have found themselves in a rare situation. For just the second time since 2019, the Bolts are on the brink of elimination — for the first time since Stanley Cup Semifinals in 2021, when the Lightning defeated the New York Islanders 1-0 in Game 7.
On the first glance, it seems like the stats historically are on the Lightning’s side: they’re still 16-0 after losses in playoff over the last three postseasons. The Lightning have also won seven of their last eight home playoff games, although the only loss happened just last week against the Leafs in Game Three. The Leafs themselves don’t have a successful history of playing in playoffs recently: they’ve lost their two last Game Six's, which eventually led to their elimination. This year’s Toronto, however, look much more mature than their previous season’s team as indicated by Game Five, when the Leafs didn’t fall apart after the Lightning’s quick two goals in the first period and rallied back to take a 4-3 win.
The Leafs adopted really well to the Lightning at 5-on-5 after two games, where the Bolts held the edge in possession and shot quality. The Lightning had a strong first period with 75.04 xGF% at 5-on-5, but really struggled afterwards, when the Leafs started pushing: in the last two periods Tampa Bay had 33.89 xGF% and 50.54 xGF%. The Matthews line especially was dominant, finishing it with 77.78 CF% and 83.93 xGF%, while starting most of their shifts outside of the offensive zone. That forced the Lightning to shuffle their top-six lines throughout the game and the most successful line was a Palat-Point-Kucherov line, which was very effective during their last Stanley Cup run in 2021. They ended the game with 94.62 xGF% at 5-on-5.
The game was, however, decided at 4-on-4 in the third period. After the game, Jon Cooper talked again about the need to stay disciplined. It has been a main issue during this first-round series and dragged the Lightning down. The two too many men penalties or high-sticking penalty, which Steven Stamkos took, when the Lightning earned a very important power play in the third period should be avoided at this stage.
The Lightning know more than anybody else how important these kind of games are and already showed their determination this series, but the Leafs will be eager to end their bad playoff luck in this game too.
Tampa Bay Lightning Potential Lines
Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Brayden Point
Brandon Hagel - Nick Paul - Ross Colton
Pat Maroon - Pierre Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry
Victor Hedman - Erik Cernak
Ryan McDonagh - Zack Bogosian
Mikhail Sergachev - Cal Foote
Toronto Maple Leafs Potential Lines
Michael Bunting - Auston Matthews - Mitch Marner
Ilya Mikheyev - John Tavares - Alexander Kerfoot
William Nylander - David Kampf - Pierre Engvall
Jason Spezza - Colin Blackwell - Ondrej Kase
Morgan Reilly - Ilya Lyubushkin
Jake Muzzin - T.J. Brodie
Mark Giordano - Justin Holl