Tampa Bay at TorontoWhen: 7:00 PM ET, Saturday, May 14, 2022
Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Ontario
Wagering Numbers:America’s Bookie Toronto Maple Leafs (-121), Tampa Bay Lightning (+112)
The Leafs have been getting into a hole early in the game too often this series. They were able to win game 5 at home after going down 2-0 in the first period, but they couldn’t do the same in game 6.
The Lightning kept alive their hopes of a third straight Stanley Cup on Thursday when Brayden Point scored at 18:04 of overtime to give them a 4-3 victory in Game 6 at Tampa.
Since 2018, the Leafs have lost eight consecutive games in which they had a chance to win a series. They lost Game 7 to the Boston Bruins in 2018; Games 6 and 7 to Boston in 2019; Game 5 in a best-of-five series in 2020 to the Columbus Blue Jackets; Games 5, 6 and 7 to the Montreal Canadiens in 2021; and Thursday’s Game 6 to Tampa Bay.
“We can’t change anything now,” said Auston Matthews, who scored Toronto’s first goal on Thursday. “It’s about this next game and going out there with the purpose and details and competing for 60 minutes or whatever it takes.”
The Lightning scored the first two goals Thursday as they did in losing Game 5 on Tuesday. Toronto took the lead Thursday when John Tavares scored twice within 26 seconds in the final minute of the second period.
Nikita Kucherov’s third-period goal tied the game when two high-sticking calls 16 seconds apart on David Kampf and Alexander Kerfoot gave the Lightning a two-man advantage.
Toronto questioned the call on Kampf when video showed that defenseman Cal Foote took the stick to his shoulder and not to his face.
“In that moment, it’s tough to take,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “But I have the benefit of slow-motion replay, officials don’t, so they’re in a tough position. Certainly, it’s a tough one to take, but that’s the way the game goes.”
The Maple Leafs had opportunities to win, particularly in overtime when they had a 9-6 advantage in shots on goal and created the better scoring chances.
“Loved how we played in overtime,” Keefe said. “We attacked, we had chances, plenty of opportunities to finish it and really gave them nothing until they had the look. They made good on their one look. That’s the difference.”
Lightning coach Jon Cooper noted that Tampa Bay capitalized on its special-teams opportunities, which he considered a theme of the series.
“We (scored) a four-on-four goal, power-play goal, short-handed goal,” Cooper said. “It’s just been the tale of the series for both teams. We just won that war tonight.”
Now one winner-take-all game will decide whether the Maple Leafs will get the proverbial monkey off their backs or if the Lightning will extend their postseason mastery.
“They’re two-time Stanley Cup champions,” Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly said. “They know how to handle these situations. And we’re trying to break through.”
During the Auston Matthews / Mitch Marner era, the Leafs are 0-8 in the playoffs when they have a chance to eliminate their opponent and that trend is going to continue on Saturday.
Best Bet: Tampa Bay Lightning ML (+112)