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Point’s OT winner keeps Lightning alive and forces Game 7

Brayden Point by Wayne Masut
Wayne Masut | The Scrum Sports

While it’s an overused saying, the line that there’s only two guarantees in life, death and taxes, continues to be true. However, when the Stanley Cup Playoffs roll around, it might be safe to add a third part to that saying: Brayden Point scores the winner in a clutch situation.

For the seventh time in his NHL career, Point tallied the game-winning goal in a playoff game. For the third time, that winner came in overtime. In this case, it kept the Tampa Bay Lightning’s season alive and forced a Game 7.

Point notched his second goal of the series with 1:56 left in overtime, capping off an extra period in which the Lightning got outshot and mostly outplayed. As a result, the Bolts came away with a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 6 of their first round series. The Lightning certainly didn’t make it easy, as they blew a 2-0 lead for the second consecutive game. Despite that, they rallied to tie it in the third period and relied on some stellar overtime goaltending from Andrei Vasilevskiy to keep them afloat until Point notched the winner. Four different Lightning players scored in the win while Vasilevskiy finished with 30 saves on 33 shots. On the other side, Jack Campbell took the loss in net for the Leafs, stopping 31 of 35 shots, while Auston Matthews notched a goal and John Tavares scored twice.

Saturday’s Game 7 will be the 10th Game 7 in Lightning history, while Toronto squandered a great chance to win their first playoff series since 2004 after they rallied to defeat the Lightning 4-3 in Game 5.

Fast-paced opening period highlighted by a late Ondrej Palat goal

The opening period began with a very, very fast pace featuring few whistles. In fact, the first whistle of the night didn’t occur until 7:54 elapsed in the period. The opening half of the period featured few whistles, but also few scoring chances as each team went about their business methodically, trying not to make any mistakes. For a while, it seemed as if the officials wouldn’t call any penalties, either. As time went on, both teams began opening things up, each creating a handful of solid scoring chances.

With 3:53 to go, the officials whistled Toronto’s Justin Holl for interference and Tampa Bay’s Nick Paul for embellishment, making it 4-on-4 hockey for two minutes, which hasn’t been the Lightning’s friend in this series. However, this time it was the Lightning taking advantage. Alex Kerfoot skated the puck through the neutral zone before making an inexplicable drop pass at the red line. Kerfoot’s drop pass went to nobody, and Palat pounced on it, skating in and beating Campbell blocker side for his third of the series, putting the Bolts up 1-0.

The Lightning held a 12-7 shot advantage at the first intermission, but overall, it was a pretty evenly-matched period at 5-on-5.

Both teams hold steady early in the second

Tampa Bay carried over a late power play into the second period, but they were unable to muster anything of note from the opportunity. The Leafs began to push back and created a few solid chances, including a rebound chance for Matthews that Vasilevskiy kicked aside. The pace began to quicken despite shots on goal still being hard to come by, although Nikita Kucherov nearly put the Bolts ahead by two when he dangled into the Toronto zone, cut to the slot, but lifted a backhander above the net.

Anthony Cirelli and Matthews trade goals

At 9:02, Cal Foote took a hooking penalty leading to the Maple Leafs’ first power play of the night. However, it was the Bolts’ penalty killers who stole the show, coming up with a couple of crucial clears and a nice hustle play by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Eventually, it was Cirelli stamping himself onto the highlight reels with a spectacular shorthanded goal. He began the play by stealing the puck at his own blue line and turning on the jets. As he almost reached the Leafs’ net, Mark Giordano cut off the angle, but Cirelli spun around to his forehand, whipping a shot past Campbell for the shorthanded goal, his first of the series.

That goal, with 9:14 left on the clock, sent Amalie Arena into a frenzy, but the energy didn’t last, as Matthews with his fourth of the series just 54 seconds later. After winning a faceoff in the Tampa Bay zone, Matthews drifted to the front of the net. Giordano let a shot from the point go, where Matthews deflected it in to cut the Bolts’ lead to 2-1.

With just under four minutes to go, Vasilevskiy came up with a big save on Kerfoot, robbing him on a 2-on-1 without leaving a rebound. At the other end, the Lightning created a great chance off the rush, with Alex Killorn setting up Palat in the slot. However, Campbell came up with a huge stop, denying Palat what would’ve been his second goal of the night.

A meltdown at a terrible time

You’ve often heard the saying that the worst time to allow a goal is the first or last minute of a period. Well, allowing two goals in the last minute of a period is nothing short of disastrous. Now imagine those two goals occurring 26 seconds. With 33.7 seconds to go, Tavares took a sharp-angled shot that Vasilevskiy stopped, but the puck popped in the air. As he fell back to try and knock the puck away, Jason Spezza waved at it, and appeared to tip the puck in. The goal would eventually be awarded to Tavares. Just like that, the game was tied 2-2.

Despite that, the Leafs weren’t content to go into the intermission tied up. After winning a defensive zone faceoff, Tavares charged down the ice as Toronto made a last-second rush. William Nylander gained the zone before dishing to Tavares, who fired it home with 7.8 seconds remaining on the clock to put the Leafs up 3-2, leaving the home crowd stunned following his third goal of the series.

An extended 5-on-3 leads to Kucherov tying it up halfway through the third

Both teams maintained a fast, brisk pace to start the third period, as there were no whistles for the first 6:29 of game time. Paul set up Brandon Hagel, who drove hard to the net, but he was denied by Campbell as he crashed into him. Other than that, it was very similar to the opening half of the first period, which was also very tight-checking as well, with shots on goal being very limited.

With 11:58 to go, David Kampf went to the box for high-sticking Cal Foote, sending the Lightning to the power play. Just 15 seconds into the man-advantage, Kerfoot took a high-sticking penalty after catching Victor Hedman up high with his stick. Upon further review, it appeared as though Kampf’s stick caught Foote in the shoulder. On the other hand, the Kerfoot penalty was the right call. With 1:45 worth of 5-on-3 time and their season on the line, the Lightning finally tied it up thanks to Kucherov’s second goal of the series with 10:40 to go. He collected a pass from Point in the high slot before zipping a shot through traffic past Campbell to give the home crowd life.

With just over two minutes to go, Hagel found himself with a golden opportunity to put the Bolts up. Unfortunately for him, his shot from in close sailed just wide of a yawning net. Leafs defenseman TJ Brodie might have gotten his stick on it, but either way, it was an opportunity lost. There were a few tense moments in the final minutes, but for the first time in this series, the Lightning and Leafs needed overtime to settle it.

Vasilevskiy holds the fort until Point’s winner late in OT

Early in overtime, Vasilevskiy was outstanding, making a big save on Kerfoot on a 2-on-1 and an even more stellar stop on Ilya Mikheyev from the slot following a turnover in the Lightning’s zone. In fact, the Leafs were dominant early in the extra period, outshooting the Lightning 7-1 during the first seven minutes. However, their best chance in that timeframe didn’t even hit the net as Giordano came up with a big shot block in front of Campbell.

The Leafs’ final shot advantage in the overtime ended up being 9-5, but at one point, it was 9-2. At times, the Lightning looked gassed. Yet it was a turnover in the neutral zone that led to the eventual winner. Matthews blew a tire near center ice, where Hagel picked up the puck and skated into the offensive zone. He slipped it to Alex Killorn, who put a shot on net. Following a Campbell save, Point slipped the rebound between his legs. It appeared as though it didn’t have enough mustard on it to cross the goal line. As it crept toward the net, Holl and Michael Bunting tried to knock the puck out of danger, but they ended up knocking it into the net, and Point got credited with the game-winner.

Game 7 will be on Saturday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. The time for puck drop has not been determined at the time this story was published.

Three Stars of the Game

1st Star: Brayden Point – Scored the seventh playoff game-winner of his career and the third overtime winner.

2nd Star: John Tavares – Scored a pair of late goals in the second period 26 seconds apart to give the Leafs a 3-2 lead.

3rd Star: Anthony Cirelli – Notched a shorthanded goal to put the Lightning up 2-0.

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