Rivalries. They are what make sports, and hockey in particular, so exciting. The National Hockey League has had many great rivalries historically. Over the last couple of seasons, a new rivalry has begun to develop. The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The two teams faced off in the first round of the 2022 playoffs. The Lightning, en route to their third straight Stanley Cup appearance, handed Toronto yet another first round exit in seven games. But the Leafs would get their revenge in round 1 of the 2023 playoffs. They took out the Bolts in six games including three overtime wins. They have already battled it out once this season. On October 21, at Amalie Arena, the Lightning took an early 3-1 lead only to lose in overtime yet again. The rivalry resumes tonight in Toronto. Can the Lightning strike a comeback blow? Or will the Leafs continue to their current success against their budding rivals?
A Familiar Pattern to the Rivalry
In their last matchup at Amalie Arena, Toronto took an early 1-0 lead, but the Bolts bounced back with three straight goals of their own. Leaf goaltender Ilya Samsonov got the hook after the third goal and Joseph Woll took over the Toronto net. As the first period went along, it started to feel like déjà vu all over again. The Leafs struck first early. Matthew Knies scored his third goal of the season. All three have come against the Tampa Bay Lightning. But just 36 seconds later, before the goal could be announced for Toronto, the Bolts had tied the game on a pretty pass from Nikita Kucherov to Victor Hedman.
— Bally Sports Sun: Lightning (@BallyLightning) November 7, 2023
Under two minutes later, the Lightning took the lead as Nikita Kucherov scored his eighth of the season on a blistering shot.
— Staff & Graph Podcast (@StaffGraph) November 7, 2023
Five minutes later, on the power play, Kucherov did it again! His ninth goal of the season gave the Bolts a 3-1 lead.
This time, Samsonov remained in the net. But not for long. Under four minutes later, on another power play, Brayden Point notched his sixth of the season to put the Lightning up 4-1. Kucherov drew an assist on the goal to follow up his five-point night in Ottawa Saturday with a four-point first period tonight.
And with that goal, Ilya Samsonov got the hook in the first period again. In came Joseph Woll. Could he backstop the Leafs to another comeback victory?
Bolts Hit a Woll in the Second
As brilliant as the Lightning had looked in the first period, the Leafs looked in the second. Nothing seemed to go well for the Bolts in that frame. The Leafs came out on fire. It took Auston Matthews just 2:22 to pull his team to within two goals. And just two and a half minutes after that, he did it again! The league’s leading goal scorer scored his 13th of the season to pull the Leafs to within one at 4-3.
The Bolts did not get much going in that frame. But when they did, Woll stood tall in net and stopped everything that came his way.
A Comeback Period
Although the Lightning clung to a lead entering the third period, it was clear that Toronto had all the momentum. And it didn’t take long for the Leafs to complete the comeback. Just a minute and 55 seconds into the period, Calle Jarnkrok tied the game at 4 with his second of the season. Eight seconds later, Mitch Marner put the Leafs up 5-4 with his fifth goal of the season.
It looked as though the Leafs would hold on for the regulation victory. But with just about two and a half minutes remaining in the third, Brandon Hagel scored to tie the game at 5-5 and send it to overtime.
— Bally Sports Florida & Bally Sports Sun (@BallySportsFL) November 7, 2023
Oh No… Overtime
The Bolts have lost their last seven straight three-on-three overtime games and been outshot 12-0 in overtime this season. And it did not take long to make it 8 straight (and a 14-0 season shot deficit). Calle Jarnkrok scored his 2nd of the game just 46 seconds in to end this one and give the Leafs a 6-5 win.
The rivalry will now take a hiatus until April. Perhaps, the Bolts can use that time to figure out a strategy to not just get a lead, but also hold a lead in these games (and maybe even win one in overtime?)…
- Calle Jarnkrok- 2 goals, including game winner in OT
- Nikita Kucherov- 2 goals, 2 assists- 4 points
- Mitch Marner- 2 goals, 2 assists- 4 points
The Bolts go right back at it tomorrow night in Montreal at 7pm.
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