3 Takeaways from Lightning’s Game 5 Win Over Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs had a chance to win their first playoff series since 2004 in front of their home crowd on Thursday night, but were unable to do so as they fell by a 4-2 final to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Things looked promising early, as they were able to find the back of the net just over five minutes into the frame to take a 1-0 lead. That lead turned out to be the only one of the night, however, as Anthony Cirelli answered less than 30 seconds later to even things up.

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That Cirelli goal seemed to turn the tide in this one, as the Lightning were the better team from then on out. The good news for the Maple Leafs is that they still have two more opportunities to close this thing out, though as Auston Matthews alluded to recently, winning the fourth is always the hardest. With that said, let’s take a look at the three main takeaways from Thursday night’s affair.

Vasilevskiy Bounces Back

Coming into Game 5, many thought the book was out on Andrei Vasilevskiy. The usually elite goaltender had struggled in this series, particularly when it came to high shots from the point. Making matters even worse was that his former assistant coach in Derek Lalonde admitted on a broadcast that the Lightning themselves realized this weakness years ago and adjusted their defensive zone approach to help cover up the issue.

Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While that particular part of Vasilevskiy’s game may be a weakness for his standard, he remains an elite goaltender, and proved just that in this one. He made a number of fantastic stops and was clearly frustrating Leafs players all night long. By the time the horn sounded, he had kicked aside 28 of the 30 shots he faced. He seems to always elevate his play in elimination games, something which should have Leafs fans feeling rather worried heading into Game 6.

Depth Stepped Up

Had you heard before Game 5 that Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point would all be pointless, you would have assumed the Lightning would be eliminated. While the top stars weren’t at their best in this one, the Bolts’ depth stepped up in a big way and allowed their team to live another day.

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As mentioned, Cirelli got things started in the first, while Michael Eyssimont, Alex Killorn and Nick Paul also found the back of the net. This was much needed given the quiet night from the three mentioned above. What’s promising for the Bolts in this regard is that it is tough to imagine them being held off the board for a second straight game.

Capitalized on Turnovers

As good as the Lightning played in this one, it was helped by the fact the Maple Leafs were nowhere near their best. This is proven by the fact they had a ridiculous 19 turnovers on the night, compared to just three in their Game 4 win. Their decisions with the puck were questionable all night long, and they paid the price against this veteran Lightning team.

Nick Paul Michael Eyssimont Ross Colton Tampa Bay Lightning
Nicholas Paul of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with teammates Michael Eyssimont and Ross Colton (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

One would expect that the Leafs will clean things up moving forward, though you can’t help but wonder if these mistakes were partially due to the nerves that come with their inability to close out series over the years. If they pick things back up in Game 6, it will have been nothing more than an off night. If it is more of the same, however, nerves may very well be the culprit.

Looking Ahead for the Lightning

With the win, the Lightning were able to extend their season and bring this series back to their home crowd in Tampa Bay. While the Leafs still certainly hold the advantage here, it won’t be an easy game for them in what promises to be a loud arena. Should they pick up their second straight win, Game 7 would take place in Toronto on Monday night.