Lightning strike early, beat Maple Leafs 7-3 to an even series

Tampa, Fla. – Talk about resilience.

Two-time Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning have not lost a straight playoff game in nearly three years and, following a postseason loss, have had 17 straight wins since the start of their 2020 title run.

“Usually, not losing back-to-back in the playoffs is a good recipe,” said captain Steven Stamkos after a 7-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night that equalized the first-round series between Atlantic Division rivals by two games apiece.

Game 5 takes place in Toronto on Tuesday night.

“This group has shown that they know what matters at this time of year and we know how to respond,” Stamkos added. “Now that we’ve done this twice in this series, let’s go out and take the lead in the series. That has to be the mentality.”

Ross Colton scored twice, Andrei Vasilevskiy had 22 saves and the Lightning got off to a quick start with three goals in the first eight minutes to deny the Maple Leafs an opportunity to take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven match .


“We came out here on the street and got a breakup. ….In that sense, it’s a successful road trip,” said Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe, whose team won Game 3 to regain home field advantage. “It doesn’t matter whether you lose the game 2-1 or the way we did it, it doesn’t matter. You wash it and move on. Next time we will be better.”

Stamkos, Pierre Edouard Bellemare and Pat Maroon scored in the opening stages against Game 3 star Jack Campbell, setting the tone for a long night for the Toronto keeper, who had put in an outstanding performance two nights earlier.

Corey Perry and Ondrej Palat also scored, and Brandon Hagel and Nikita Kucherov each had two assists for the Lightning.

“If we play like that, we just have to find a way to do it in the next game,” Maroon said. “We know we can do it. We know what works. We know what is successful for our team.”

Vasilevskiy improved to 17-0 in games after the defending champion lost in the playoffs in the last three postseasons.


William Nylander scored twice and Jake Muzzin also had a goal for the Maple Leafs. Campbell gave up five goals on 16 shots before being replaced in the second half by Erik Kallgren, who stopped all 10 shots he faced.

“They hit on their first shot and brought it to us,” Campbell said. “For me, I just look in the mirror and learn from what I did wrong.”

Tampa Bay rounded out a dominant performance with empty goals from Palat and Colton in the 5-20 final.

The Lightning felt like they were self-destructing with losses in Games 1 and 3 and spending far too much time in the penalty area against a team that had the NHL’s top power play in the regular season.

They were all over the Maple Leafs from the start on Sunday night, and Stamkos beat Campbell from just inside the blue line exactly a minute into the game. Bellemare and Maroon followed with goals in the next seven minutes to extend the lead to 3-0.


Things only got uglier from there for Toronto, who drew Campbell after Colton scored from the slot and Perry – with Kucherov and Brayden Point collecting assists – delivered a 5-on-3 power play for a 5-0 -Lead at 5:25 of second period.

The five-goal deficit would have been bigger had it not been for Toronto’s penalty takers. Tampa Bay was 1-of-7 on the power play through two periods and finished 1-of-8. The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, were 0-2 in man-advantage situations before finally breaking through against Vasilevskiy with the first of Nylanders’ two goals at 2:27 of the third.

Vasilevskiy and the Lightning again slowed Toronto’s Auston Matthews and Mitchell Marner. Matthews had the primary assist in Nylander’s first goal, but the NHL’s top scorer during the regular season didn’t have a shot on target until the third period.

“We came down early, it’s hard to come back,” Muzzin said. “Too many penalties. We have to prepare for the next one.”



The team that scores first has won every game in the series. There were no leadership changes.


Sunday night marked the fourth time in the past three postseasons that the Lightning have scored seven or more goals in a game. The franchise high for goals in a postseason game is eight.


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Nate Jones

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