For one more series, the old lion held off the young cubs nipping at his heels. The Tampa Bay Lightning completed their series comeback with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game Seven to win their first round series. Nick Paul scored both goals for the Lightning and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 30 of 31 shots. Morgan Reilly scored the lone goal for the Leafs while Jack Campbell stopped 24 of 25 in another strong start.
It looked like the first period was going to cruise to a 0-0 end as both teams came out cautiously, but opportunistic. Both goaltenders were sharp, making key saves and both teams focused more on keeping the puck out of their net as opposed to putting it into their opponents.
Then, with three minutes to go, a string of incidents happened that started with a potentially game-swinging injury to Brayden Point. He came in on what was an offside play and as he played the puck, twisted awkwardly along the boards and immediately grabbed the upper portion of his right leg.
Brayden Point's injured. Just brutal. pic.twitter.com/AvJqhDtmBA— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) May 14, 2022
He was able to skate off with assistance, but was in obvious pain and unable to put any weight on the leg. With the Lightning’s best center sidelined, it would have been a good chance for the Maple Leafs to take hold of the period, but it was the Lightning that struck first. And it was, what could be the most important line moving forward, Ross Colton and the new guys.
Nick Paul brought the puck through the neutral zone and then dished it to Ross Colton. Colton fired a puck on net that Campbell had to fight off, which he did, but the rebound went right to Paul who put it into the net for the first playoff goal of his career.
Nick Paul (Ross Colton, Cal Foote) 1-0 Lightning
On the very next shift the Leafs went on the power play and at the buzzer Ilya Mikheyev chipped a cross-crease pass off the outside of the net. If he’d been able to put it in, it would have been real close to counting.
Point returned to the bench to start the period and once the Lightning killed the penalty jumped onto the ice for a defensive zone face-off. He blocked a shot, but was in pain as he made a turn. Then after skating down the ice, was laboring again in the offensive zone. Point then headed right to the bench and it his night was done.
Both teams traded chances with Paul almost doubling the lead on a point-blank chance. It did appear that the Leafs had tied it nine minutes in when John Tavares spun out from behind the net and roofed one past Vasy. The refs immediately waived it off and called Justin Holl for interference on a pick play that had freed Tavares.
An interference penalty on Holl negates Tavares' goal, so it stays a 1-0 hockey game pic.twitter.com/W84KInKP6V— NHLonTNT (@NHL_On_TNT) May 15, 2022
Alex Killorn and Steven Stamkos had back-to-back chances with the extra skater, but Campbell and his defense held them off the board.
It was a key penalty kill for the Maple Leafs as they tied it shortly after on a Lightning-esque rush. Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews led the attack, but it was Morgan Reilly joining the rush that made the difference as he was able to one-time the pass from Matthews into the upper corner past Vasy’s glove.
Morgan Reilly (Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner) 1-1
With Scotiabank Arena rocking the Leafs made their push. William Nylander picked up a loose puck and fired a shot just wide. Then Vasy made his biggest save of the series, flashing the blocker out to keep a puck out on a shot by Matthews. Play went the other way and somehow Nick Paul fought his way through traffic, kicked the puck to his stick, and slid a shot past Campbell for his second goal of the night.
Nick Paul (needs no one’s help) 2-1 Lightning
Nikita Kucherov almost made it 3-1 moments later as he tipped a centering pass off of the far post. While they couldn’t add to their regained lead, the Lightning had the strong finish to the period they needed.
The Leafs pressed early in the third, but the Lightning held their ground and kept them to the perimeter while still looking to counter. They knew they had to be responsible defensively, but couldn’t sit back totally. They had to take their chances when possible and it was Nick Paul with the best chance early as he skated the length of the ice and cut in front of Campbell. A Leaf defender knocked him offstride and into Campbell to disrupt the play, but the collision also shook up Campbell a bit. He stayed in the game.
Six minutes into the period, Ondrej Palat went to the box for hooking, and Toronto went to work on their third power play of the game. Vasilevskiy was big as the Leafs racked up five shots in the first minute, the most dangerous, a one-timer from Nylander that was blockered away. Despite ample opportunities for the Leafs, the Lightning weathered the storm.
As time ticked down (slowly, oh so slowly) the Lighting put on a clinic on how to defend a one-goal lead. They kept the plays in front of them and made sure to clear any second chance opportunities away from their goaltender.
Toronto pulled Campbell with 2:20 left in the game, but the Lightning were absolutely staunch in their resistance, not really allowing any major chances. With the victory, the Lightning move on to the second round to take on the Florida Panthers.