By now, after the Toronto Maple Leafs lost 4-3 in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning, you’ve heard all the history of the team’s difficult seasons. In the Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner era, last night was the eighth time in a row they’ve not been able to close out a seven-game series.
Eventually, that record of futility will end. As a Maple Leafs’ fan, one can only keep rooting for the team and hope Saturday night is THE night it does end. The Maple Leafs are chasing the tail of the cat called a first-round win. Eventually, they’ll catch it – but will it be this season?
Takeaway One: Penalties and More Penalties Can Kill a Team
The team had the game in the bag. Things looked under control. After falling behind 2-0, the Maple Leafs came roaring back to lead 3-2 by the end of the second period. They didn’t quit; however, the five-on-three penalty for two high sticking calls (both within 16 seconds) was the difference.
Then the wind shifted. As Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe noted, ”I thought we were playing a good third period up until they had the 5 on 3. We were protecting our net well. We were defending well. We were in good position. I loved how we were playing.”
Keefe then added the bad news: ”The 5 on 3 turns things, and then it took us a bit to really get our game going from there.”
But again I say, the team didn’t quit, they outshot the Lightning 8-2 over the first 11 minutes of overtime. In fact, as coach Keefe noted, “We had plenty of opportunities to finish the game and finish the series. It didn’t go our way, but (there’s) lots of belief in our group, and we’re excited to play Game 7 on home ice in front of our fans.”
Takeaway Two: Goalie Jack Campbell Didn’t Play Poorly
Jack Campbell didn’t play poorly in the net; but, like the whole team, he was done in by the 5-3 penalty. There were just too few of his own players between him and the opposition’s shooters. In the end, Campbell gave up four goals on 35 shots and suffered the pain of not being able to close out the Stanley Cup champs from last season.
This one was not Campbell’s fault. As Captain John Tavares noted, the team “had our looks in OT. Unfortunately, we weren’t the ones to cash in on our opportunities.”
Then, looking to Saturday’s game, Tavares noted that “We worked hard all year to earn home ice, and we’ve got a great opportunity going home in front of our fans to try to close this thing out.”
Tavares added that the team is looking forward “to the opportunity. It’s what the game’s all about.’
Takeaway Three: John Tavares Scored Two Goals in the 4-3 Loss
Tavares scored two goals in the 4-3 overtime loss and helped lead a Maple Leafs’ comeback. Once again the team was behind by two goals and things looked grim. First, Matthews scored just over halfway through the period. Then Tavares scored back-to-back goals in less than 30 seconds to give his team a 3-2 lead headed into the third period.
Then, when things were going well in the third period, trouble hit in the form of penalties. The rest is history.
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