Tampa Bay Lightning beat Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 in Game 7 on Saturday night to win their first-round playoff series.
Nick Paul scored twice, including a remarkable solo effort on the game-winning goal late in the second period.
For the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, Andrei Vasilevskiy made 30 saves.
Toronto, which hasn’t advanced past the first round since 2004, is now 0–9 in elimination games in the last five postseasons after falling 4-3 in Game 6 in Tampa, Florida, two nights ago.
Jack Campbell came up with 23 saves.
The Maple Leafs are the first team in MLB/NBA/NHL history to lose a winner-take-all game in the opening round of the playoffs 5 years in a row.
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) May 15, 2022
Maple Leafs were once again unable to overcome a lengthy, bleak history of postseason failures for a team that has now lost seven straight series, including six in the last six years.
Toronto is currently 7–3 in Game 7s at Scotiabank Arena, including a loss last season after squandering a 3-1 series lead to the Montreal Canadiens.
The Maple Leafs seemed to tie the game at 11:28 of the second period when John Tavares roofed a shot on Vasilevskiy, but the goal was overturned after Toronto defenseman Justin Holl was called for interfering.
On the ensuing penalty kill, Campbell had to make a pair of desperate saves to create the situation for Rielly’s equaliser off a setup from Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews at 6:35, sending the 19,316-strong crowd into a frenzy.
The goal was Vasilevskiy’s and the Lightning’s first in the last six series-clinching games.
The Maple Leafs were buzzing when William Nylander missed high on a breakaway and the Tampa goalkeeper robbed Matthews.
With 3:28 left in the period, Paul scored his second of the night—and second in the playoffs—on a fantastic play in which he kicked the puck from his skate to his stick.
Late in the period, Kucherov nearly made it 3–1 when he hit the goal post from the slot.
Vasilevskiy was under fire during a Toronto power play just over six minutes into the third period, but he held off the home team despite intense pressure.
As the clock crept down, Toronto pressed forward inside an anxious, tense rink.
Maple Leafs, on the other hand, couldn’t find a way to win with Campbell on the bench as an extra skater, adding another chapter to their playoff misery.
Both teams had great chances to score early on, but Vasilevskiy and Campbell were there to stop them.
Vasilevskiy, the 2019 Vezina Trophy winner, stopped Tavares from scoring on a wonderful chance in close.
On a Lightning power play, Campbell held the fort on a pair of quality opportunities for the visitors.
Brayden Point was injured late in the first period when his right leg got entangled underneath him as he tumbled to the ice in Tampa’s Game 6 victory to prolong the series.
The forward, who was in excruciating pain as he walked down the tunnel to the locker room, attempted to return for the second period but was forced to leave after a brief shift.
When Paul, who had a handful of chances with his team ahead in Game 5 before Toronto rallied back, scored his first, the Lightning went up 10 seconds after Point went down in the first. Campbell stopped Ross Colton’s one-timer off the rush that nicked Rielly’s stick, but the rebound went to Paul at 1:36, and Toronto gave up the first goal for the fourth straight game.
After defeating the New York Islanders 1–0 at home in the semifinals last June, Lightning were playing in only their second Game 7 since the start of the 2020 playoffs.
Since 2004, when Joe Nieuwendyk scored twice to defeat the Ottawa Senators, this was Toronto’s first Game 7 at home in front of spectators (the club’s 2021 loss against Montreal was played in front of 550 health-care employees due to COVID-19 limitations).
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