3 Takeaways from the Lightning’s Disappointing Game 5 Loss vs Toronto

In a critical Game 5 matchup, the Tampa Bay Lightning were unable to capitalize on two early first-period goals, eventually falling to the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3. Auston Matthews scored the game-winning goal with just under eight minutes left in the game to give the Leafs a 3-2 advantage in the series.

After four lopsided games, Game 5 finally gave fans a close, back-and-forth contest. Unfortunately for the Lightning, they were unable to capitalize on early momentum, as careless penalties and untimely mistakes let the Leafs back into the game.

Lightning With Another Fast Start

In a series in which the team that has scored first has won each of the first four games, the Lightning jumped out first with a Steven Stamkos goal. Just under a minute later, they extended the lead with a Victor Hedman power-play tally. What has happened in this series is that the team that has scored first seems to have a bigger share of the game momentum than what is normally seen in a playoff period, leading to some lopsided games. This has been a bit of a trend throughout the playoffs, as through 22 games the average margin of victory has been 3.27 goals per game representing the largest average playoff goal differential since the NHL expanded beyond six teams in 1967-1968.

Victor Hedman Steven Stamkos Nikita Kucherov Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning Defenceman Victor Hedman celebrates a goal with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

One of the keys to the quick start was the ability to stop the Maple Leafs on an early power-play attempt when the Lightning were whistled for a too many men on the ice penalty. They later capitalized on their own power-play with the Hedman goal. That set the tempo for the first period in which they outshot the Maple Leafs 14-5, reflecting the up-tempo pace with crisp passing that the Lightning demonstrated in the period.

Lightning are Still Taking Too Many Unnecessary Penalties

The argument can be made that both teams are taking too many unnecessary penalties, as this series has seen the most penalties called so far in the first round of the playoffs. Of the penalties that the Lightning have been whistled for, the most difficult ones to stomach were the not one, but two penalties for too many men on the ice. The second one led to a John Taveras power-play goal that changed the momentum of the second period, and ultimately the game. It was only some excellent work in net by Andrei Vasilevskiy that kept the Lightning up 2-1 at the end of the second period.

John Tavares Toronto Maple Leafs Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs Center John Tavares screens Tampa Bay Lightning Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Throughout this series, the Lightning have been their own worse enemy. While some may question the way in which these games are being called, the officials have nothing to do with taking multiple too many men penalties. These penalties are all about communication, which is something that should not be an issue for this team. These kinds of infractions are unacceptable for a veteran team such as the Lightning, as they cannot afford to give the team who led the regular season in power-play goals so many opportunities with the man advantage.

Lightning Falter in the Third Period

The Lightning had an excellent chance to build on their one-goal lead when David Kampf took a penalty to give them a power-play early in the third period. However, 10 seconds later, Stamkos took a high sticking call, leading to some 4-on-4 hockey. Toronto was able to use this to their advantage and get goals from Morgan Reilly and William Nylander. Again, another careless Lightning penalty led to a momentum change in the game. To their credit, the Lightning did rally to tie it on a Ryan McDonagh goal, but eventually gave up the lead and the game when Matthews slapped home a rebound off a 2-on1 break.

Ryan McDonagh, Tampa Bay Lightning
Ryan McDonagh, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With the loss, the Lightning have dug themselves a big hole. When a best-of-seven series is tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 holds an all-time series record of 219-58 or a 79 percent series victory rate. While a lot of credit should go to the Maple Leafs for fighting back from the early deficit, the Lightning had plenty of chances throughout the game to extend their lead and take control of the game and the series. Instead, missed opportunities have put their run for a three-peat on life support.

Related: 3 Lightning Players Who Need to Produce in the 2022 Playoffs

The teams now head back to Tampa for Game 6 on Thursday night. If the Lightning can find a way to prevail, Game 7 would be back in Toronto on Saturday.

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