Leafs blown out by Lightning in feisty playoff opener

Apr 19 2023, 2:21 am

That wasn’t how the Toronto Maple Leafs drew it up.

The Leafs were down by three goals after a nightmare first period, and eventually lost 7-3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored just 78 seconds into the game, and the Leafs trailed 2-0 before generating much of anything.

After finding their legs later in the first, a power play goal by Nikita Kucherov with four seconds left in the first period sucked all energy out of Scotiabank Arena, and the Leafs trailed 3-0 after 20 minutes.

At that point, the Leafs were booed by fans as they left the ice for the intermission.

There were signs of life by Toronto in the second period. Power play goals by Ryan O’Reilly and William Nylander cut Tampa’s lead to 3-2.

However, Tampa would score three power play goals of their own in short order, and had a commanding 6-2 lead at the end of the second period.

That lead to the Leafs being booed off the ice once again.

Leafs forward Michael Bunting was assessed a match penalty for an illegal check to the head of Lightning defenceman Erik Cernak, which led to two of Tampa’s three power play goals late in the second period.

Cernak stayed on the ice for a couple of minutes after taking the hit from Bunting. He didn’t return to the game.

Tampa Bay also lost Victor Hedman due to injury early in the second period. Both Cernak and Hedman played fewer than 10 minutes each, while Mikhail Sergachev, Darren Raddysh and Ian Cole all received more than 23 minutes of ice time in their absence.

Another player who received less ice time than expected was Leafs goaltender Ilya Samsonov. The Russian netminder allowed six goals on 29 shots. He was replaced by back-up goaltender Joseph Woll at the start of the third period.

Samsonov now has just one victory in eight career playoff starts, dating back to his time with the Washington Capitals.

Calle Jarnkrok scored the other goal for Toronto, which was the final goal of the game in Toronto’s 7-3 loss.

Despite pessimism being rampant throughout the arena, “Leafs in 5” did start trending on Twitter towards the end of the game.

Last year when these two teams met in the playoffs, Toronto stomped Tampa 5-0 in Game 1.

However, it was Tampa who had the last laugh against the Leafs in last year’s first round battle.

Perhaps Game 1 wins are a curse when these two teams meet in the playoffs.

At least, that’s what the Maple Leafs faithful is hoping for.

Trevor BeggsTrevor Beggs

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