"They know how to win": O'Reilly says Leafs are in for toughest challenge tonight

Apr 27 2023, 7:31 pm

If anyone knows what it takes to win in the playoffs, it’s Toronto Maple Leafs forward Ryan O’Reilly.

The former St. Louis Blue captain and 2019 Conn Smythe winner spoke with members of the media on Thursday ahead of Game 5 of the ongoing first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

While the Leafs currently hold a 3-1 series lead with the chance to be the first team to advance to the second round, O’Reilly says eliminating the Lightning, who have appeared in the last three Stanley Cup Finals is “not an easy task by any means.”

“We’ve put ourselves in a good spot here, but this is a game where we want to dictate a bit more,” explained the veteran centreman. “We want to go at them a bit more and control the game more.”

O’Reilly says the Leafs, which have earned their last two wins in overtime, are prepared for this to be the most difficult game of the series.

“They know how to win. They’re going to throw everything they possibly have at us. This is going to be our toughest challenge yet of the series, to close these guys out.”

With the postseason pressure comes a lot of support from the Leafs faithful. And O’Reilly says playing at home could be a real advantage for Toronto’s players. “There’s a lot of buzz around — something that we have to feed off of,” he says. “We have to use that energy.”

The Clinton, Ontario native, who was acquired by Toronto via trade back in February, has been a positive force on and off the ice for Toronto this series, netting two goals and seven points over the first four games. If the rest of the team follows his lead, they should have no issue closing things out tonight and breaking the 19-year-long curse of not surpassing the first round.

In fact, O’Reilly, who grew up a Leafs fan, says he can’t recall what he was doing or where he was the last time they got it done back in 2004. The 32-year-old was only 13 at the time.

Puck drop for Game 5 is set for 7 pm ET on Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena.

Al SciolaAl Sciola

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