The two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning kept their triple-round hopes alive and the Toronto Maple Leafs suffered another disappointment in Game 7 with a 2-1 loss at home on Saturday night.
Trade delay acquisition Nick Paul scored twice and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who allowed at least three goals in the first six games of the first-round series, was brilliant, making 30 saves to give the Lightning a ninth consecutive streak win.
But the Lightning also have an injury to worry about as they prepare to face the No. 1-seeded Florida Panthers in the second round.
Forward Brayden Point limped off the ice in the first period, unable to put weight on his leg after an awkward fall.
Surprisingly, Point came out for the second period. But he went out for a shift and it was clear he was still working. He skated to the bench and stayed there and did not return to the ice for the rest of the game.
If he can’t go early in the next series, it would be tough for the Lightning. Point scored the overtime winner in Game 6 and led the Lightning with 14 goals in each of their two Stanley Cup runs.
The Maple Leafs haven’t won a playoff since 2004 and that might have been their best move as they finished with a franchise-record 115 points.
Auston Matthews has scored 60 goals this season and Mitch Marner has 97 points. Michael Bunting is a Rookie of the Year finalist. William Nylander and Alexander Kerfoot had career years. The Maple Leafs bolstered their defense with Mark Giordano and Ilya Lyubushkin before the deadline. Goalkeeper Jack Campbell, who struggled mid-season, came back strong in April after an injury.
The Maple Leafs won 5-0 in Game 1, but the Lightning continued their playoff trend after a one-win loss (now 17-0). Toronto led by one goal in the third period of Game 6, but Tampa Bay forced overtime on a 5-on-3 power play.
In Game 7, a John Tavares goal was retired in the second period due to an interference call to Justin Holl. Morgan Rielly eventually tied the game, but Paul scored just over three minutes later. Vasilevskiy stopped all 17 Toronto shots in the third period.
“We’re tired of feeling like this, so we have to make sure we’re ready for the season ahead,” Marner said.
Patrice Bergeron says it’s too early to decide the future
Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron took time to hug his teammates as they walked off the ice after a 3-2 Game 7 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
But if that’s a sign the pending unrestricted free agent was saying goodbye, it wasn’t, he said.
“It’s always tough when it ends like this, so it was more to share with them and thank them for fighting together every day basically. It stings and that’s not the feeling you want, but that being said, we did it together,” he told reporters.
Bergeron said it was too early to make a decision on his future.
“It’s too cool right now,” he said. “It still stings obviously from a hard-fought series and we fell short. Obviously I have to think about it, but I’m not there yet.”
Bergeron won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and won the Selke Trophy (top defensive forward) four times and was a finalist on six other occasions.
Bruins forward Brad Marchand called Bergeron the backbone of the team.
“We want him back, but whatever happens he has earned the right to make the decision he wants and take the time he needs,” he said. “I guess time will tell.”
NHL decides not to penalize Flames’ Nikita Zadorov for hit
The Calgary Flames will have hard-hitting defenseman Nikita Zadorov available for Game 7 against the Dallas Stars on Sunday after NHL Player Safety cleared him for his hit on Luke Glendening.
“Although there was significant head contact on this play, Zadorov took a proper angle of approach, didn’t expand outward or up and ran through the core of Glendening” , the department said after holding a hearing. “Therefore, under rule 48.1(i), contact with the head was determined to be unavoidable.”
Zadorov had two assists, 18 hits and 20 penalty minutes in the playoffs.