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Lightning Squandered Chance to Take Series Lead, Now Face Elimination

The Tampa Bay Lightning had the Toronto Maple Leafs on the ropes. Two early goals from Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman put the Bolts up two. Since there had been no lead changes in the series to date, things look very good for the Lightning. However, needless penalties killed the Lightning in the second period and squandered their chance at a series lead. It allowed Toronto to get back in the game and accomplish something that had yet to be done. Overcome a bad start. Tampa Bay will head home down 3-2 with the odds of winning the series heavily stacked against them.

Perfect Road Start

Coming into a pivotal game five, you couldn’t have drawn up a better start for the Lightning. Their forechecking was solid, they won battles along the boards and spent considerable amounts of time in the Leafs end, and it paid off. 5:19 into the first, three Leafs went to  Nikita Kucherov who was able to slide the puck over to Stamkos who snapped one home to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead.  Then less than a minute later on the powerplay, Victor Hedman fired the perfect shot off the post and in to put the Bolts up by two. After gaining the lead, they managed the puck very well and took their 2-0 lead to the locker room.

Squandered it in the Second

As captain Stamkos said when asked about protecting leads in the third “It didn’t start in the third, it started in the second”. Being a great team, it was obvious that Toronto was going to push back in the second after a horrendous start.  However, at 2:33 of the second the Lightning took their second too many men penalty of the ice. Which by the way, is one one of the sloppiest and easy to avoid penalties in the game of hockey. The penalty would send the breath of life into Toronto as John Tavares picked up his first goal of the series on a deflection.

From that point onward it was all leafs in the second period. Although the Lightning did defend relatively well, they gave up a ton of chances. Had it not been for Andrei Vasilvskiy, Toronto could’ve scored three or more. All that being said, the Lightning survived and even got some chances.It was clear that the Maple Leafs were pressing for offense which opened up some chances at the other end.  Nick Paul had at numerous chances that were stopped by Jack Campbell who played excellent stoping 32 of 35 shots. However, it was not to be as the Lightning would take their slim one-goal lead into the third period.

Toronto’s Stars Shine

Although the Lightning squandered away momentum in the second period, the Leafs stars won it for them in the third. They took advantage of their opportunities where the Lightning did not. However, it seemed like the Lightning were going to get a chance at an insurance goal when David Kampf took a hooking penalty at 2:15. What would’ve been a great chance for the Lightning to seal the deal turned into a detriment when Stamkos took a high-stick 10 seconds later. Toronto would score two goals on the ensuing 4-on-4. One came on a Morgan Riley one-time while the other came from William Nylander on a beautifully placed shot.

Despite all the momentum going against them, the Lightning would not lie down without a fight. With just over 12 minutes left in the period, Tampa Bay’s best line of Ross Colton, Nick Paul, and Brandon Hagel would pin the leafs in their zone. Colton would backhand the puck to the circle where McDonagh stepped into it and blasted it past Campell to tie the game. However, just over five minutes later Auston Matthews would come through for the Leafs. McDonagh got tied uo along the near side wa which lead to a two on one. Just as its taught, Mitch Marner would fire one off the right pad of Vasilevskiy and right to Auston Matthews. Being one of the best players on the league Matthews didn’t miss and put Toronto up for good. The Lightning would not muster any significant chances in the final minutes.

Road Ahead.

Although the Lightning squandered their chance a series lead, they will have a chance to tie the series at home on Thursday. However, the chances at winning the series have greatly diminished. 79 percent of the teams who have won game five in a tied series have gone on to win the series. Victor Hedman said postgame “We believe in ourselves. Thats the bottom line.”. That belief will be put to the test as the two time defending Stanley Cup champions will face elimination Thursday night at Amalie Arena.


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