Toronto Maple Leafs win first NHL playoff series in 17 years

Toronto Maple Leafs win first NHL playoff series in 17 years

The Toronto Maple Leafs secured their first NHL playoff series victory in almost two decades as they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 on Saturday night. John Tavares scored in overtime, and the Maple Leafs clinched the best-of-seven series in six games, winning three times on the road in overtime. This was their first series win since 2004, a period marked by six successive first-round exits.

Toronto’s Mitchell Marner said that it was “a little bit of a relief” to finally progress in the playoffs, but he added that the team must now prepare for tougher challenges ahead. The Lightning, who won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2020 and 2021, were eliminated from the playoffs, ending their run of three consecutive appearances in the final.

Tavares and Matthews score for victorious Maple Leafs

Auston Matthews scored Toronto’s first goal, beating Andrei Vasilevskiy from the right circle, and Tavares netted the winner in overtime. Steven Stamkos scored for Tampa Bay, but it was not enough to prevent their defeat. Vasilevskiy made 20 saves, while Toronto’s Ilya Samsonov made 31 saves, holding the Lightning scoreless until Stamkos scored in the third period.

Tavares said that playing for his hometown team was “obviously special”, and Matthews added that the series had been “a roller coaster” of emotions. Toronto will now face either the Boston Bruins or Florida Panthers in the next round of the playoffs.

The Lightning’s coach, Jon Cooper, acknowledged that the Maple Leafs were the better team and deserved their victory. He said that he was proud of his team’s performance, but he did not believe that they could have done anything to change the outcome of the series. Toronto’s coach, Sheldon Keefe, praised his team’s resilience and character, saying that they had battled hard throughout the series.


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