Updated: May 16
(Photo via NHL)
By Jake Ricker
Game 7, one chance for the Lightning to punch their ticket to the second round. Both teams gave it their all, but it was the Lighting who ultimately came out on top by a final score of 2-1 and move on to the second round to face the Florida Panthers.
Both teams came out strong in the early goings of the period as they both knew the first goal would be a huge momentum boost to whoever got it. As the game continued on, both goaltenders were locked in, making some key saves to keep this game scoreless. The Lighting would then suffer a major loss as Brayden Point took a bad fall along the boards and immediately grabbed his leg. Point was helped off the ice, and the Lighting were now down a key player.
This didn't phase the Lightning one bit as they rallied for their fellow teammate, and minutes later, Nick Paul found the rebound and fired it home past Campbell for a 1-0 lead. The leafs pushed back, but Vasy stood tall and kept them off the board. With the crowd now stunned, the Lighting looked to take an early 2-0 lead, but Campbell was not willing to be beaten this quickly as he too made some excellent saves to keep the Leafs down by one.
Stamkos would then take a late penalty giving the Leafs one last chance to even things up before the end of the period. The Lightning's penalty kill had come to play, though, shutting down the Leaf's high-powered offense and keeping the Lighting up by one after one.
Point tried to come back out for the second period, but just one shift in, he could not put any pressure on his leg and knew his day was done. Despite this, Point stayed on the bench giving the Lighting a huge morale boost. The Lightning have had an issue in the second period all series long as they continuously let the Leafs back into the game. And unfortunately, that is exactly what happened here. The Leafs continued to pick up momentum despite Vasilevskiy making some key saves. Eventually, the Leafs finally broke through as Jon Tavares fired one home, Past Vasilevskiy, to tie the game.... or so they thought. The goal was waved off due to interference (or a pick play) on Cirelli, and the goal was taken off the board.
Now with a power play, the Lighting looked to take advantage. Despite Toronto having a decent penalty kill, the Lighting got some quality chances that were inches away from finding the back of the net. But unfortunately, Campbell made a few huge saves to help the Leafs kill off the penalty. It wasn't until just a few minutes later that Morgan Rielly blasted one past Vasilevskiy to tie the game once again. And this one would count without question.
The Lighting knew they needed a good repose quick, and they got that and more thanks to Nick Paul. As the Lighting picked up a few chances, the puck was then held in at the blue line, and Paul quickly came into coral. It bumped the puck off his skates, then fired one into the net to give the Lighting a 2-1 lead in the second.
Both teams would get a few more opportunities on either side, but we would then head into the second with the Lighting leading by just one goal and were 20 minutes away from advancing to the second round.
The clock seemed to stop and slow down for Lighting fans as they knew how close to a great comeback they were. Vasilevskiy continued to blow others away with what he is able to do in game 7's and shut down the Leafs. Campbell also made some key saves down in the Toronto end to keep them in this game. Time quickly continued to count down, and the Leafs realized the dire situation they were in.
The Leafs then gave it everything they had, Keeping Vasilevskiy and the Lighting on their toes with great pressure. The Lighting began to spend most of their time In the defensive zone. But with Vasilevskiy's top-notch play, the Lighting still lead the game 2-1 after 2.
The Leafs would eventually pull Campbell with a few minutes left to try and even the score, but the Lighting grinned out the last few minutes and held on to pick up a 2-1 series victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Lighting played pretty close to a full 60 minutes but grinned out the game and got yet another one goal win in game 7. Full credit to the leafs who battled hard and gave it their all but untimely came up short. Vasilevskiy was locked in and the penalty kill was great which was a huge part to the Lightning's success. Now the Lighting will face the Panthers on Monday or Tuesday in the second round of the NHL playoffs.
1. Nick Paul TBL (2G)
2. Vasilevskiy TBL (23 SV)
3. Jack Campbell TOR (23 SV)
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