The opportunity for the Tampa Bay Lightning to be a three-peat Stanley Cup Champion is still alive. Brayden Point scored in overtime to give his team a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs and force a deciding Game 7. For the second game in a row, the Lightning squandered an early two-goal lead. However, in this game, they bounced back to force overtime by taking advantage of two untimely Maple Leaf penalties to score on a 5-on-3 power play.
The Lightning Blow Another Early Two-Goal Lead
For the second game in a row, the Lightning jumped out to a two-goal lead. After an Ondrej Palat first-period goal, Anthony Cirelli opened the scoring in the second period by scoring shorthanded. The Maple Leafs answered back by getting two goals from John Tavares after Auston Matthews opened the scoring. In Game 5, penalties helped the Maple Leafs come back. In Game 6, it was a tentative defense that allowed the Leafs to storm back and take the lead. At the end of the second period, the Lightning seemed content to just go through the motions and take their one-goal lead into the intermission. Tavares had other ideas and made the Lightning pay for their indifferent play by scoring both of his goals in the last minute of the period, just 26 seconds apart.
Unfortunately, this has been a pattern that has haunted the Lightning throughout the entire season. Too many times during the 2021-22 campaign they blew leads and committed unnecessary penalties in losing games against quality teams. This pattern has repeated itself in the Toronto series. In the past, the Lightning have been able to be successful because they could play shutdown defense when they needed to. This has not been the case to this point.
The Lightning Capitalize on Maple Leaf Penalties
The number of penalties and when they have occurred have been a major focus of this series. In Game 6, it was Toronto’s turn to take unnecessary penalties that allowed the Lightning the opportunity to get back into the game. Just past the midway point of the third period, David Kampf and Alexandar Kerfoot took high-sticking penalties 16 seconds apart to give the Lighting a 5-on-3 power play. Nikita Kucherov was able to put a puck past Jack Campbell to tie the game which eventually went into overtime.
To the Lightning’s credit, they got a golden opportunity to tie the game and they took advantage of it. This is what champions do. They have always been a team that has a knack for rising to the occasion, especially when facing adversity. Thursday night was no exception as the Maple Leafs opened the door and the Lightning came charging through, giving them at least a chance to win the game and extend the series.
Clutch Performers Lead the Lightning to Victory
In scoring the overtime winner, Brayden Point became the second player in team history to score an overtime goal in a game where his team was facing elimination. The first Lightning player to do so was Martin St. Louis in Game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. It is not surprising that the hard-working Point, who was the team leader in goals in last year’s playoffs, scored the game-winner. Working in front of the net and getting rebound goals is the type of gritty effort that he gives the team each and every night. In all, he has 37 goals and 38 assists in 72 career playoff games. Palat, who scored the first goal of the night, is another clutch postseason performer. He now has 40 career playoff goals and is a plus-27 in 121 playoff games.
The Lightning have now rebounded from a loss with a win for the 17th consecutive time in the postseason. Andrei Vasilevskiy has won each and every one of the contests that make up Tampa’s 17-0 record and made some huge saves in overtime to allow Point and the Lightning to force a Game 7.
The series-deciding game will be on Saturday night in Toronto with the winner going on to face either the Washington Capitals or the Florida Panthers in the second round.
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Jim Bay writes about the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Nashville Predators for THW. A retired Special Education Teacher, Jim enjoys writing about hockey and all sports when he is not slashing his way around local golf courses. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow Jim on Twitter. (https://twitter.com/baysports007)