An adage as old as time in the playoffs is how critical the odd number games are. Games 1, 3, 5 and 7 are critical. Especially, if the two teams are tied after the even numbered games. After the first two games of this first round series between Toronto and Tampa, this series is tied at one, That makes tonight Game 3 between the Maple Leafs and the Lightning critical. Whoever wins tonight takes a 2-1 lead. Heading into Game 4, this becomes huge.
The bad news for Toronto is that since the 2020 playoff, Andrei Vasilevskiy is 21-2 after a playoff loss. This stat courtesy of NHL.com. Clearly, the Lightning are counting on that trend to continue. The bad news for the Lightning is the drubbing they took in Game 2 at the hands of the Leafs could carry over. Whatever happens tonight here at Amalie Arena, one thing is certain. Game 3 is here and it could tell a huge story for the ultimate winner of this series.
Who Scores First?
In Game 1, it took the Lightning a little over 90 seconds to get that game’s first goal. In Game 2 it took the Leafs half that time (about 45 seconds) to score the first goal. Both teams that scored first, won that game. Will that be the case in Game 3? Victor Hedman was back on the ice. We hadn’t seen him since the first period of Game 1. Toronto scored the first goal. At 3:24 of the first period, Noel Acciari opened the Game 3 scoring.
Anthony Cirelli tied the game at one. After getting the puck from Brandon Hagel, Alex Killorn gliding down main street, fed Cirelli who snapped the puck past Ilya Samsonov.
Anthony Cirelli (@acirelli22) evens the score! ✔️ #StanleyCup
🇺🇸: @NHL_On_TNT ➡️ https://t.co/oaJG9t2rS3 #NHLonTNT
🇨🇦: @Sportsnet ➡️ https://t.co/c0FJF23gPj #NHLonSN pic.twitter.com/Js31apRULZ
— NHL (@NHL) April 22, 2023
Old Fashioned Playoff Game
Now, it would be up to Toronto to answer. They did. After a prolonged time in the Lightning zone, the Leafs grabbed a 2-1 lead. Auston Matthews tipped in a Mitch Marner shot past Vasilevskiy. It was apparent that neither team was willing to give up an inch of ice.
With a little over two minutes left in the period, the Lightning went on the power play. Just after the penalty expired, Brandon Hagel put the puck past Samsonov to tie the game at two. There was some confusion on this goal. It wasn’t originally called a goal on the ice. Nick Paul skated towards Hagel celebrating. After a replay review it was called a goal. It took several replays for me to determine that Hagel’s shot hit Samsonov. While it appeared he saved it, he never controlled it and it slid past the goal line.
This was a weird one and took a while to cut, but you better believe it was a Bagel goal #TORvsTBL
Brandon Hagel just squeezed this puck through to tie things at two, as called by @DaveMishkin and @PhilEspo7
🎧: @1025TheBone or Lightning Radio 24/7 on the Lightning app pic.twitter.com/1v8Ayun72P
— Lightning Radio (@BoltsRadio) April 23, 2023
What Happens in the 2nd Period?
What we saw in the middle frame was a typical playoff game. Every player on the ice seemed to be finishing their checks regardless of where it was on the ice. Back and forth these combatants went. Throughout most of the period, both goalies were holding firm.
It began to feel that both teams were conscious of not making the mistake that would lead to the go ahead goal. Rookie defenseman Darren Raddysh, keeping the puck in the Leafs zone, slid down the right side. He took two big hits but kept the puck. Wth Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point on the ice, the Leafs seem to leave Raddysh alone. He skated to the low slot and wristed a shot past Samsonov to give the Lightning 3-2 lead.
Feeling the momentum swinging their way, the Lightning appeared to add another goal almost immediately after the Raddysh goal. On the power play, Point seemed to knock a loose puck in front of Samsonov in the net. It was reviewed and apparently a whistle blew the play dead
“Fine, I’ll do it myself.”
– Darren Raddysh, probably.@TBLightning | #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/lerEtS93E7
— Bally Sports Sun: Lightning (@BallyLightning) April 23, 2023
Holding On in Game 3
Entering the final regulation period, the Lightning were clinging to the narrowest lead in hockey. One goal. The Lightning defense was working hard to get the puck out of their zone as soon as it came in. Toronto was fighting to tie the game and send it to overtime. As each team worked in the first few minutes of the third period, a scary play took place. At about the five minute mark, Point was chasing a puck that was dumped in the corner. He was beating Morgan Reilly to that puck when Reilly pushed Point who slammed into the boards awkwardly. Point appeared to go head first into the board.
Immediately, NIkita Kucherov wrestled Reilly to the ground. Players paired off for what was looking like an all out brawl. It was Jets and Sharks time. Stamkos and Auston Matthews paired off. It was evident, Stamkos had a few fights under his belt where Matthews did not. The real scary part was Point attempting to skate back to the bench collapsed to his knees after a few strides. When the dust settled, the Leafs actually ended with a power play though they didn’t score.As the period entered the final few minutes, the desperation was on the Leafs side to try and tie the game. Meanwhile, on the Lightning side, quick shifts to keep fresh legs to prevent that tie from happening.
Point made it back in the period which was seen as a good omen for Tampa. It wasn’t to be. With one minute left, Ryan O’Reilly tied the game with a goal. He was right in front of the net and lifted the puck past Vasilevskiy to knot the game at three. Overtime was going to decide this game.
The Lightning were dictating play throughout the overtime period. They outshot the Leafs 8 to 5 but it was all for naught. With less than 45 seconds left in the overtime period, earlier villain, Reilly sent one past a screened out Vasilevskiy to give the critical Game 3 win to Toronto
- Ryan O’Reilly – 1 Goal, 2 Assists – His goal in the third tied the game and he assisted on Reilly’s game winning goal
- Brandon Hagel – 1 Goal, 1 Assist –
- Darren Raddysh – 1 Goal and 4 hits. Scored his first playoff goal in his third playoff game.
Game 4 Monday night at Amalie Arena at 7:30 pm. Toronto has a 2 games to 1 edge.
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- Huge Game 6 OT Win for Toronto, Take Series 4-2 April 29, 2023
- Round one game five, win! April 27, 2023
- Rough Third Period Costs Bolts Game 4 April 24, 2023
- Pivotal Game 3 Goes to Leafs in OT April 23, 2023
- Tavares, Leafs Flip Script as Series Heads to Tampa Tied at 1 April 21, 2023
- Chaotic period becomes game changer in Game 1 win over Toronto April 18, 2023
- NHL First Round Playoff Series: Lightning vs. Maple Leafs April 18, 2023
- Who’s out? A very Tampa off-season preview April 16, 2023
- Point’s 50th (and 51st) Goal Help Lightning End Season On A Winning Note April 13, 2023