Leafs coach Keefe says Lightning have been “manipulating” the referees

Apr 23 2023, 6:50 pm

While the Toronto Maple Leafs might’ve taken a 2-1 series lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning last night with a 4-3 overtime win, it didn’t come without a few bumps in the road.

The game featured a third-period brouhaha, headlined by a scrum between Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and Toronto’s star centre in Auston Matthews, with a total of seven penalties being doled out between the two teams.

The whole play started with a collision between Toronto’s Morgan Rielly and Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point, which sent the latter to the dressing room before returning shortly later.

Rielly was initially assessed a five-minute major for the play before it was rescinded upon review.

With Tampa Bay likely heading to the penalty kill after Nikita Kucherov caused a bit of havoc in the scrum — picking up a roughing penalty and a fighting major, Stamkos then started the fight with a seemingly disinterested Matthews, with both of those two players getting five-minute penalties of their own.

And Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe seemed both displeased and impressed with Tampa’s tactics to get a few extra Toronto players off the ice.

“The fight itself, that’s a classic example of a veteran championship team like Tampa Bay manipulating the officials and taking advantage of a situation, right? I mean they know that we’re basically already going on the power play because of the Kucherov situation so it’s a free-for-all,” Keefe told reporters.

“They can do whatever they want and they just know that the way the games get called they’re not going to get another penalty. I mean you watch that sequence back and say that we shouldn’t get a 5-on-3. The officials literally holding Steven Stamkos with one arm and his other hand with no glove on is punching Auston Matthews. Not the linesman, the referee who calls the penalty was holding Stamkos while this was happening,” Keefe added.

While the Leafs coach did have quite the opinion about how things went, he did give the Lightning credit for their cheeky gamesmanship.

“Credit to Tampa for recognizing that situation, it’s a free pass to do what you want. Not only do they get out of it unscathed, but they take Matthews and O’Reilly with them to the box. Brilliant play by the Lightning there,” he added.

Game 4 is scheduled for 7:30 pm ET/4:30 pm PT at Amalie Arena on Monday.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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