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KOSHAN: Leafs valiant third-period effort not enough, falls in Game 7 to Lightning


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There’s no shame in losing to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion.

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For the Maple Leafs, however, the pain that hit hard Saturday night at Scotiabank Arena will last a long time.

The Leafs didn’t take a shift for granted and left it all on the ice, as they say, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 in a 2-1 loss. .

Ultimately, the experience the Lightning gained from winning back-to-back Cups was greater than the first-round losses the Leafs have suffered over the past five years. It’s been six years in a row since the Leafs have made it to the second round.

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While Tampa Bay sometimes needed goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy to make big saves, the Lightning didn’t flinch after losing 3-2 in the series, winning the last two games.

The Leafs had 17 shots on Vasilevskiy in the third period and didn’t score on any of them. It’s not going away for a while either.

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GAME ON

Already giving the Leafs nation nightmares, Nick Paul nearly made the situation worse when he slammed into Jack Campbell four minutes into the third period. Campbell got up favoring his left leg, but after a few anxious moments he stayed in the game. The No. 1 priority this offseason for Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas will be to re-sign Campbell… The Leafs had six shots on goal as Ondrej Palat served a minor hook, which came at 6 :19 of the third, but the No. 1 power play of the regular season couldn’t get the puck past Vasilevskiy… John Tavares scored one of his best goals in recent memory at 8:32 of the second when he circled around the net, and a jumble of players, to break the puck past Vasilevskiy. However, rather than the match being tied 1-1, the goal was disallowed as Justin Holl was called off for interference on Anthony Cirelli. As difficult as the streak may have been for the Leafs to swallow, the call to Holl could not be avoided. He threw a pickaxe at Cirelli, and if it wasn’t for that, Tavares might not have escaped Cirelli’s failure… The Leafs not only killed the penalty, they didn’t let it affect their desire. At 1:25 p.m., Morgan Rielly caught a pass from Auston Matthews and beat Vasilevskiy to get the tie the Leafs thought they had five minutes earlier…William Nylander knocked down Cal Foote defenseman to get in on his own, but shot over the net…Paul scored his second goal of the game at 16:32 of the second period when he got the better of TJ Brodie one-on-one and beat Campbell on the other end . “That’s where heroes are made,” veteran Corey Perry said of Game 7 overall. “Maybe he’s not the big guy. It could be someone you’ve never heard of doing something that takes us to the next level. We heard about Paul, of course, but like Perry said, he wasn’t the big guy who did it for Tampa Bay… Shortly after Paul’s goal, Nikita Kucherov hit the post… Unlike last year when the Leafs lost Game 7 to the Montreal Canadiens, and in the 2020 bubble when the Leafs lost a decisive fifth game to the Columbus Blue Jackets, there was no no worries from Toronto to start the game. Nylander got it right in the morning. “I think we came out a bit flat in those games,” Nylander said. “Maybe a little scared of losing. We don’t need to be afraid of losing. We have a great team. … A Mitch Marner jab at the big Victor Hedman along the corner boards in the Tampa Bay end got an already electric crowd excited even more… The Leafs were on point from the opening faceoff, taking in charge of the first shifts. Pierre Engvall and Marner had early chances… Tavares got past his 2009 draft buddy Hedman to get a great chance which was denied by Vasilevskiy… Brayden Point was clearly in pain as he limped straight to the locker room at 17: 11 of the first period after he fell awkwardly into the sideboards. Point was favoring his right leg, and though it didn’t look good for the Tampa Bay forward, he came back for the second period. Point was on the ice during a shift and slammed his stick on the ice in frustration as he returned to the bench. He didn’t play again, but sat on the bench for the rest of the game… Despite the Leafs buzzing around Vasilevskiy in the first period, the Lightning went on first at 18:24. Paul scored on a Ross Colton rebound after Campbell made a clean save from the pad. Paul was able to drive the puck into the net as Rielly’s check attempt came a fraction of a second too late.

LOOSE LEAF

The Leafs were trying to become the 18th team in NHL history to knock out the defending Cup champions in a Game 7… Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper took on the Leafs in the morning , which might bring some comfort to Leafs Nation: “We’re not surprised at how good they are. They’ve been knocking on the door for so long. I think they grew as a group, I think their stars are stars. They have a very good team game and the coach is doing a great job preparing them. The Leafs have a hell of a team.

tkoshan@postmedia.com

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