(Photo via NHL)
By Jake Ricker
The Lightning would come into game five looking to take a 3-2 series lead and a chance to close things out at home. But after once again not playing a full 60 minutes, the Lightning now find themselves just one loss away from elimination. Let's take a look at what happened period by period.
Just a few minutes into the game, the Lighting took a too many men on the ice penalty, which is one of the worst penalties you can take. Luckily the Lightning penalty kill came through and avoided being down early in the game. Just a few minutes later, the Lightning turned on the jets as Steven Stamkos blasted one from the high slot and beat a screen, Jack Campbell, for a 1-0 lead. Stamkos, who had now scored in two consecutive games, and you could start to hear the life being sucked out of Scotiabank Arena.
The Lighting kept pushing and would eventually draw a hooking penalty and head to the power play. With a chance to put the Leafs in a big hole early, the Lightning wasted no time getting to work. Seconds into the power play, Hedman blasted one from the point into the back of the net, giving the Bolts a 2-0 lead. You could now hear a pin drop as the Toronto faithful knew they were in trouble.
Things would only get worse as the Leafs paraded to the penalty box giving the Lighting a 5-on-3 opportunity. Stamkos, Hedman, and Kucherov all got a few good looks on the power play, but Jack Campbell began to settle in, and the leafs successfully killed off all the penalties. Toronto, who now was picking up some momentum, tried to get themselves on the board, but Vasy and the Lighting defense stood tall and shut them down. Both teams picked up a few penalties towards the end of the first, but we would head to the second with the Lighting up two and all of the momentum.
Wanting to replicate exactly what they did in the second, the Lighting had an opportunity to take a stranglehold on the game. But the Lighting would make a costly and unacceptable mistake. The Lighting would take a second too many men penalty giving the leafs another power play. This was their third too many men call of the series and is one of the simplest things to avoid, but the Lightning just can't seem to do that. Toronto, now with some life, quickly got to work and brought themselves within one as Jon Tavares put the puck into the back of the net. Scotiabank Arena now had some life, and the Leafs built on it.
Putting on constant pressure and creating grade-A chances, the Leafs were banging on the door, trying to tie the game. But they forgot about one man. Vasilevskiy put on a show making stop after stop after stop. Despite Vasilevskiy keeping the Lighting in this game, the Leafs were building momentum, and the crowd was now back into the game.
Stamkos then took a tripping penalty late, giving the leafs a chance to tie the game. Luckily the Lighting penalty kill came through and killed it off. The Lightning would old off the Leafs and head into the second leading by 1. But it was now clear the Lighting would have to flip the script in the third with the Leafs pushing and looking like they were going to tie the game.
The Lightning needed to bounce back in the third and play just like they did in the first period. Unfortunately, that is not what happened. Three minutes into the game, the Leafs would finally get the game-tying goal they were looking for as Riley fired the puck home and tie the game at 2. The stadium was now rocking, and the Leafs took full advantage. Nylander now fired a shot over Vasilevskiy's glove just a minute later to give the Leafs their first lead of the game at 3-2.
After such a great start to the game, the Lighting now found themselves down by a goal, and with the Leafs having all the momentum, it would be a tall task to overcome. The Lightning were able to push back a little as time ticked down. Despite struggling since the first, Ryan McDonagh would find the back of the net and tie the game at 3-3.
Now with a new game at hand, the Lighting had a great opportunity to take back the momentum. But Jack Campbell had other plans as he made some big saves to keep the Lighting from taking back the lead. The Leafs knew they had to ram back up their play, and they did that through their physicality. The crowd again got loud, and the Leafs made one final push. With seven minutes remaining, Matthews did what he did best and picked up a juicy rebound that he buried into the back of the net for a 4-3 lead.
The Lighting tried to fight back once again, but they could not get back to that first period level of play, and time would run out. The Lightning now trial the leafs in the series 3-2 and now far elimination in game six.
The Lighting blew this game, plain and simple. They had a fantastic start to this game and had the stadium silent. But they let the Leaf's climb back into it and took silly penalties daring Toronto to make a comeback. Hockey is a 60-minute game, and the Lighting failed to play a full 60, with has been an issue for them all season. None of that matters now; the Lightning will face elimination in game six and must play their best hockey of the season to stay alive and have to do it two times in a row if they want to win the series. The good news for the Lightning is their 16-0 after a loss in the last three postseasons, and the Leafs have a history of not being able to close out their series. But make no mistake, this is not the same Leaf's team; play a full 60, and you have a chance, no excuses. And please stay out of the box.
1. William Nylander TOR (1G, 2A)
2. John Tavares TOR (1G, 1A)
3. Auston Matthews TOR (1G)
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