No one expected this series to be easy for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs by a decisive 7-3 final on Tuesday night, everyone including the Bolts themselves were well aware of how skilled this Leafs team is, and they proved just that on Thursday night.
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After an embarrassing showing at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday, the Leafs put on a show for their fans in Game 2, defeating the Lightning by a lopsided 7-2 final. While it wasn’t technically a must-win game, a loss would have been devastating given this team’s lack of playoff success in the past. While some expected to see nerves because of that, they looked very calm and collected from the get-go, and have tied this thing up as a result. With that said, here are the three main takeaways from this outing.
Polar Opposite Start
On Tuesday, perhaps the most impressive thing about the Lightning’s victory was how well-prepared they were right off the hop. They not only found the back of the net less than two minutes into the first period, but went into the intermission with a 3-0 lead. In this one, however, it was the complete opposite.
The Maple Leafs got things started just 47 seconds into Game 2, with Mitch Marner getting them on the board. Goals later in the frame from both John Tavares and William Nylander had them heading into the intermission with a 3-0 lead of their own. The Lightning did briefly make it 3-1 in the second on an Ian Cole goal, but the Leafs responded with three more of their own to make the score 6-1 heading into the third.
Vasilevskiy Not at his Best
While the blame certainly won’t be placed solely on his shoulders, Andrei Vasilevskiy was far from his usual dominant self in the playoffs. Marner’s opening goal was one that should have never beaten him, and while not as soft, there were a few others that he would normally make the save on. By the time the final horn had sounded, he had allowed seven of the 36 shots he faced.
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After the game, Jon Cooper confirmed that he asked Vasilevskiy after the second period if he wanted the remainder of the night off, but the 28-year-old chose to remain in the crease. This isn’t uncommon for him, as it has been said in the past that he likes to finish games regardless of the score to try and get a better read on his opponents. While this game certainly didn’t go as he had hoped, Lightning fans should be feeling confident that he will bounce back in Game 3.
Perry’s Hot Start Continues
After a season in which he recorded just 25 points and a team-worst plus/minus of minus-28, it seemed as though age had fully caught up to Corey Perry. That said, Cooper continued to value his leadership and experience and kept him in the lineup all year long. While things were ugly at times during the season, his experience is proving to be quite valuable right now.
Perry was one of the Lightning’s best forwards in Game 1, scoring a goal and adding two helpers. In this one, albeit while the game was well out of hand, he was able to beat Ilya Samsonov in the third for his second of the series. His four points through the first two games of the playoffs lead the Lightning, something no one saw coming.
Looking Ahead for the Lightning
While this one didn’t go how the Lightning had envisioned, they will be fine taking the split and will now return to Tampa Bay with home-ice advantage. Game 3 will take place Saturday in what is the final game between these two of the week, but will pick right back up on Monday for Game 4. With Game 5 now a guarantee, it will be played back in Toronto on Thursday, giving these two evenly contested teams a two-day break.