Leafs lose 5-3 against Tampa Bay Lightning to even first-round series

Victor Hedman had a goal and three assists for the first four-point playoff game of his career as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 on Wednesday to even their first-round series 1-1.

Nikita Kucherov, with a goal and two assists, Brayden Point, Corey Perry and Brandon Hagel also scored for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman (77) celebrates his goal with teammates Alex Killorn (17) forward Steven Stamkos (91) after scoring past Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (36) during first period, round one, NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey action in Toronto on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 31 saves in a bounce-back performance for the 2019 Vezina Trophy winner after the Lightning dropped the opener 5-0.

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Mitch Marner, with a goal and an assist, Michael Bunting and Alexander Kerfoot replied for Toronto, which got 29 stops from Jack Campbell. Auston Matthews added two assists.

Game 3 of the best-of-seven matchup goes Friday in Tampa.

The Lightning, who also lost Game 1 in three of eight series on their way to winning those Cups the last two seasons, took a 1-0 lead on the power play with just 1.4 seconds left in the first period.

After making a big stop on Point from the slot, Campbell was beaten by Hedman from in tight on a broken play where the puck popped out to the Lightning defenceman on the goaltender’s doorstep.

Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Michael Bunting (58) celebrates his goal with teammate defenceman Mark Giordano (55) during second period NHL first-round playoff series action against the Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy in Toronto on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn.

Tampa, which went 0-for-5 on the man advantage in Game 1, had a much better start after looking slow most of Monday, but had to kill off two Toronto power plays earlier in the period before Vasilevskiy made a good save on Colin Blackwell moments before the visitors took the lead.

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Coming into Wednesday, the Tampa netminder had a 14-0 record with a .966 save percentage and five shutouts following a loss the last two playoffs.

Vasilevskiy, who allowed five goals on 33 shots in Game 1, made a massive glove save on Leafs defenceman Timothy Liljegren early in the second. Hedman then sent Perry in alone on a breakaway less than a minute later to make it 2-0 at 2:21.

Toronto cut the deficit in half at 7:47 when Matthews took the body on Ryan McDonagh and separated the Lightning blue-liner from the puck before swiping a pass from his stomach to Marner, who found Bunting for him to fire past Vasilevskiy and send Scotiabank Arena into a frenzy.

Bunting returned to the Leafs’ top line alongside Matthews and Marner after missing the last four games of the regular season and Monday’s series opener with an undisclosed injury.

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But Tampa’s power play – red-hot late in the regular season before Monday’s dud – connected a second time after Toronto’s Wayne Simmonds took an undisciplined penalty when Kucherov delayed before sniping one upstairs on Campbell at 9:57.

The Leafs had a chance to get the puck out of the defensive zone earlier in the sequence, but David Kampf passed to a stick-less T.J. Brodie instead of clearing it himself.

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Toronto got its third power play late in the period only to watch Tampa get chance after chance _ much like the Leafs during the Lightning’s early five-minute man advantage in Game 1.

Tampa put things out of reach 1:33 into the third when Hagel tapped in from Campbell’s doorstep.

The Leafs netminder kept it at 4-1 a couple minutes by denying Kucherov his second on a breakaway.

Simmonds took another penalty and the Lightning connected for a third power-play goal of the night at 5:38 when Point fired home off a Kucherov pass.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner (16) gets hit by Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Mikhail Sergachev (98) during second period, round one, NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey action in Toronto on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette.

Marner got one back for Toronto with 8:07 left in regulation before Kerfoot scored the Leafs’ second short-handed goal of the series with 4:17 left off a great play from Brodie.

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The Leafs then got a power play with 2:35 remaining and pulled Campbell for a 6-on-4 advantage, but the battle-tested champs killed it off to head home even at a game apiece.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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