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What a way for the Tampa Bay Lightning to force a Game 7. The Maple Leafs had a chance to advance to the second round for the first time since 2004 and to Toronto’s credit, they had a solid game overall. Tampa Bay did jump up 2-0 in the second period after scoring a shorthanded goal, but the Maple Leafs managed to rally to a 3-2 lead before Nikita Kucherov tied it at 3-3 with a power-play marker in the third frame.
That set up overtime, where Toronto looked like the better team for a lot of it, but then they lost in a very Leafs fashion. Auston Matthews lost his balance in the neutral zone, seemingly to nothing in particular. It was as if the spirit of Leafs losses passed pushed Matthews. That led to the Tampa Bay Lightning claiming the puck and pushing it into the Maple Leafs’ zone. Brayden Point managed to slide the puck passed Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell, but not into the net. Instead, as Toronto’s Michael Bunting tried to move the puck to safety, he accidentally knocked it into his own net, ending the game.
To be fair to Bunting, the puck was inching towards the net as it was, so it likely would have been a goal anyways had he not touched it. The fact that he accidentally tapped it in is mostly incidental, but it does feed into the perhaps unfair narrative of Toronto not being able to close out a series during the Matthews era. Still, it’s not as if this was a game where the Maple Leafs rolled over and caved to the pressure. An odd sequence at the end aside, they showed on Thursday that they can play against the back-to-back defending champions even when stakes are at their highest. Game 7 on Saturday is going to be fun and it's not the only Game 7 we're going to get that day.
BOSTON 5 CAROLINA 2 (Series tied 3-3)
With their series on the line too, the Bruins came out strong. Brad Marchand got the scoring started 46 seconds into the second period and Charlie Coyle made it 2-0 on a power-play goal before the second period was done. The Hurricanes were stronger in the third but were never able to even the contest.
Jeremy Swayman stopped 23 of 25 Hurricanes shots. He improved to 3-1 with a 2.51 GAA and .913 save percentage in four postseason starts.
At the other end of the ice, Antti Raanta saved 29 of 33 shots. He has a 2-2 record, 2.46 GAA, and .926 save percentage in five playoff games.
Andrei Svechnikov scored both of the Hurricanes’ goals. He has three markers and four points in six postseason contests.
TAMPA BAY 4 TORONTO 3 (OT) (Series tied at 3-3)
As noted above, Brayden Point scored the overtime winner, though it was technically tapped in by the Leafs. He also had an assist, giving him two goals and four points in six games in the first round.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 30 of 33 Maple Leafs shots. He did enough, but he still hasn’t had a game yet in this series where he allowed fewer than three goals.
John Tavares scored a pair of goals for the Maple Leafs. Also, while I noted Auston Matthews’ stumble above, I should add that he did score a goal as well, giving him eight points in the first round series.
Jack Campbell turned aside 31 of 35 shots last night. He’s 3-3 with a 3.33 GAA and .893 save percentage in six playoff contests.
ST. LOUIS 5 MINNESOTA 1 (Blues win series 4-2)
With everything on the line, the Minnesota Wild fell apart. To be fair, they outshot the Blues 10-4 in the first period, but it was the Blues’ Nick Leddy that scored the lone goal before the first intermission. With the Wild now playing from behind, Minnesota managed to get outshot 21-5 in the second period. The Blues consequently had a 4-0 lead going into the third, which made the final 20 minutes of the series devoid of tension.
Ryan O'Reilly provided what proved to be the game-winning goal. He was fantastic in this series, scoring five goals and eight points in six games.
Colton Parayko had a goal and an assist for St. Louis. He’s up to a goal and four points in six playoff games.
Minnesota’s final goal of the season was scored by Matt Dumba. It was also his only point of the 2022 postseason.
The Wild decided to start Cam Talbot for this contest over Marc-Andre Fleury, who was in net for the first five contests. Fleury didn’t exactly dominate in this series, posting a 3.04 GAA and .906 save percentage, but Talbot certainly didn’t fare better. Talbot stopped just 22 of 26 Blues shots, though two of the goals he allowed were scored during St. Louis power plays.
Meanwhile, Jordan Binnington saved 25 of 26 Wild shots. He’s been playing like the Binnington of old, posting a 3-0 record, 1.68 GAA, and .943 save percentage in three playoff games.
EDMONTON 4 LOS ANGELES 2 (Series tied 3-3)
Evander Kane has played a big role for Edmonton all series and that continued on Thursday. He contributed two goals and an assist, bringing him up to seven goals and nine points in six playoff contests.
Connor McDavid also had another strong showing with a goal and two assists. That gives him three goals and 12 points in six postseason games.
Mike Smith saved 29 of 31 Kings shots. This was a solid showing from him after he allowed eight goals over his previous two starts. This also ended the Oilers’ streak of three straight games where they allowed at least 43 shots.
Los Angeles’ Carl Grundstrom scored a goal just 29 seconds into the third period. That marker tied the game at 2-2, but the Oilers still managed to eke out a win.
Jonathan Quick turned aside 33 of 36 shots last night. He’s allowed at least three goals in five of the six games so far in this series.