Auston Matthews scored twice and Alexander Kerfoot netted a game-winner in overtime to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a fierce comeback win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of their NHL playoff series.
Center Noel Acciari and defenseman Morgan Rielly scored the Maple Leafs’ other goals in the 5-4 win Monday at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. The Maple Leafs own a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven game, first-round series.
“It’s what you dream about; scoring goals in overtime in the playoffs,” Kerfoot told reporters. “You just want to help the team out any way you can. There was a lot of belief in our room, even after the first two periods.”
Right wing William Nylander registered three assists for the Maple Leafs. Right wing Mitchell Marner, center Ryan O’Reilly and defenseman Mark Giordano logged two assists apiece.
Ponder that for a moment. The team that tore through the 2020 postseason and raised the Stanley Cup without ever facing an elimination game lost a three-goal lead as quickly as a beer run. The team that lifted the Stanley Cup again in 2021 lost a gut check against a group often derided as chokers. The team that made a third consecutive run at the Stanley Cup in 2022 lost its well-earned aura in a meltdown that will surely be talked about for weeks, and maybe years, to come.
“That’s a good team over there, and they were pushing, they were making plays,” Lightning forward Anthony Cirelli said. “They were playing with the puck a lot, and that’s on us. We’ve got to be better there and kind of have a reset. Those are games that we can’t (let) slip away.”
The idea that Toronto is up 3-1 in the series is not the shocking part of this melodrama. The Leafs were the better team in the regular season, and the favorite coming into the series.
And for all its accomplishments the past three seasons, Tampa Bay is a team that has been fighting the natural decline of salary-cap defections, injuries and age. Only the heartiest of fans would have expected another Stanley Cup appearance this summer.
Toronto got on the board at the 4:51 mark of the second with a deflection from Noel Acciari that got past Andrei Vasilevskiy and made it 2-1.
But the Bolts kept playing their game and answered back at the 11:31 mark of the second when a pass from Victor Hedman deflected off the skate of Steven Stamkos and past Ilya Samsonov to make it a two-goal game again.
Then, with 1:11 remaining in the second period, Killorn gave Tampa Bay a 4-1 lead when he took a pass from Brandon Hagel and fired a beautiful shot to the far side, off the post and in, for his second goal of the contest.
Going into the third period with a 4-1 lead in the postseason feels like it should be an automatic win for the Lightning, especially on home ice. But not on Monday night.
Toronto got three straight goals from Auston Matthews, who scored back-to-back goals at the 9:44 and 12:29 marks, as well as Morgan Rielly who tied the game 4-4 with 3:56 remaining.
“Guys were trying,” said Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper. “I think maybe there was a little bit of a mindset of, ‘We’ll just close this one out.’
“We scored enough goals to win. You’ve got to keep them out of your net,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
Mikhail Sergachev and Steven Stamkos also scored for the Lightning. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 32 shots and had a couple of big saves in the overtime period before Kerfoot redirected Mark Giordano past the goaltender for the win.
Noel Acciari scored for the second straight game for Toronto, deflecting Juston Holl’s shot past Vasilevskiy early in the second period to briefly get the Maple Leafs within one goal before Tampa Bay pulled away with goals by Stamkos and Killorn that made it 4-1.
“Maybe there was a feeling that we’ll put it away,” Cooper said. “Obviously, Toronto had a different idea.”
It was 2-0 after one period, and the Maple Leafs were fortunate the deficit wasn’t bigger.
Goaltender Ilya Samsonov stopped Brandon Hagel’s penalty shot a little less than eight minutes into the game, but the Lightning’s persistence paid off when Killorn — and then, Sergachev — scored their first goals of the series off perfect feeds from Nikita Kucherov.
How did the Toronto Maple Leaf’s matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning?
This game had all the ingredients of playoff hockey with heavy hitting, goal-scoring, and heart from both teams. Not to mention that the game was a high-scoring affair of which the Toronto Maple Leafs took advantage.
It was indeed the patience of the Toronto Maple Leafs that took Game 4 in style, even though they were down three goals after 40 minutes of action.
Who are the scoring leaders for the Maple Leafs and Lightning?
After four games, Mitch Marner leads both teams in points with eight assists and two goals for 10 points in the series. Meanwhile, Nikita Kucherov leads the Tampa Bay Lightning with one goal and five assists coming out to six points in the series. This game was the defining mark of the Toronto Maple Leafs with a character game played to their advantage, while the Tampa Bay Lightning have a lot of reflection to do on their part.
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