After the Leafs took the 2-1 series lead in Game 3 on Friday, they had to know that the Lightning would come back fighting hard in Game 4 last night. Perhaps that fear and anticipation was a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the Lightning wiped the floor with Toronto as they did in Game 2.
When the Lightning got to the early lead, it felt almost like fate. The Leafs were meant to lose this one, badly, to charge them up for Game 5 at home (or so I hope, at least). Here was the first one, a one-time clapper from Steven Stamkos:
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) May 8, 2022
The misfortune continued from there and, since this is The Leafs Nation, I’ll spare you having to scroll through all of the gifs of the Lightning goals that eventually put them up 5-0, and then 7-3 with the two empy netters.
As the Leafs won Game 3 with just 3 goals past Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Lightning beat Jack Campbell for 5 in the first two periods and their other 2 were on an empty net. Erik Kallgren came into the game in relief of Campbell to re-energize the team, and stopped all 8 shots he faced.
And just like they had in Game 2, the Leafs were able to get a few consolation goals. Meaningless for this game, but a reminder that you can score against this team, and something to carry into the next game. The Leafs again scored 3 on one of the best playoff goalies around in Vasilevskiy, but it wasn’t enough.
Here were the two goals scored by the previously goal-less William Nylander:
William Nylander gets the Leafs 🚨 pic.twitter.com/tUmqMZcrbo
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 9, 2022
Another one for Willy!
Nylander and Tavares combine for the @MapleLeafs 2nd of the night
— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) May 9, 2022
Jake Muzzin got a third one with a beautiful point shot:
Jake Muzzin gets a shot through traffic 🚨 pic.twitter.com/7JSFcMf5hZ
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 9, 2022
Last night’s loss was a disappointing effort, but it’s part of a pattern.
The narrative here is easy: the Lightning and Leafs seem to be trading lopsided games. As I wrote in my Staturday column this week, the Leafs in Games 1 and 3 were guilty of not keeping the gas pedal pressed down in their two wins. Last night, and in Game 2, the Lightning crashed hard and kept crashing. The Lightning have this ability to drive themselves to push harder even when they have the lead, and that’s something that most teams lack. That’s why they’ve won the Stanley Cup twice in a row, and have their sights set on a three-peat.
That was the story again in Game 4.
Even though the Leafs were able to put 3 goals in the net, the shot numbers were steadily controlled by Tampa Bay throughout the game, as shown in the chart below from Natural Stat Trick. Toronto was never able to pull the shot attempts into their favour, despite going down so early in the game.
Game 5 will be back in Toronto on Tuesday night at Scotiabank Arena. The game will be at 7:30pm Eastern. The Leafs will look to trade games as they have throughout the series so far, and get the crucial third win in the series, giving them two chances to win out the series in Games 6 and 7.
Hot take or not, I think they’ll win Games 5 and 6. Go Leafs go.
More from The Leafs Nation:
- Game #3 Recap: Maple Leafs’ depth and Jack Campbell come up big in 5-2 win over the Lightning by Nick Barden
- ‘It was my 15th season, I love playing in Toronto, and I don’t know’ Rich Clune’s hockey-playing career hangs in the balance by Nick Barden