TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning couldn't put back-to-back wins as they suffered a 5-2 defeat against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night at AMALIE Arena. The Bolts are now down 2-1 in the series.
The visitors were up 3-0 midway through the second period, and then Tampa Bay scored two goals in the second and third periods to provide some hope for an equalizer.
However, in the last few minutes of the game in the third period, the Maple Leafs scored two quick goals to ensure their victory.
The Lightning now needs a win in their next game to level the series two-all.
Should Tampa Bay manage to get past the Maple Leafs, then the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions will face the winner between the Florida Panthers and the Washington Capitals in the second round.
Winning a third straight Stanley Cup would make the Lightning only the fourth team to reach that accomplishment, along with the Toronto Maple Leafs (1947-49), the Montreal Canadiens (1956-60, 1976-79) and the New York Islands (1982-1982).
The Bolts' next game will be at 8 p.m. on Sunday, May 8 at AMALIE Arena.
We've got real-time coverage of the game below in our live blog.
End of the third period. Final score 5-2 to Toronto.
Ilya Mikheyev scores for Toronto again in another empty net to extend the visitors' lead to 5-2.
Ilya Mikheyev scores for Toronto in an empty net to give the visitors a 4-2 lead.
Tampa Bay pull Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Bolts are on the power play.
Bolts goal! Ondřej Palát scores to make it 3-2 as Tampa Bay now only trails by one goal.
The third period has begun and the Bolts are looking to make a comeback in Game 3.
End of the second period. Bolts will head enter the third and last period 3-1 down.
Tampa Bay close to another goal as Ross Colton's shot hits the crossbar!
Bolts get on the scoresheet with a goal from Ross Colton! Assisted by Mikhail Sergachev. Bolts are down 3-1.
Toronto gets the first goal in the second period. Bolts down 3-0.
Erik Cernak is out of the box and back in the game.
The second period is underway. The Maple Leafs will start the period with a full two-minute power play after Erik Cernak was called for a roughing minor at the end of the first period.
End of the first period. Bolts remain down 2-0.
Toronto gets their second goal of the night. Bolts down 2-0.
The visitors get the first goal of the night as they take the lead and it's 1-0.
The puck is dropped and we are underway at AMALIE arena for Game 3.
Here are your Tampa Bay Lightning starters for Game 3: Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, Erik Cernak and Andrei Vasilevskiy
Game Preview Below:
In the midst of their March slump, I think about Steven Stamkos' quote about confidence.
"It's such a fickle word and something that people take for granted I think. When you have it, it's great, but it goes away pretty quick, and you have to grind and battle and not cheat the game to get it back."
The juxtaposition between Game 1 and Game 2 was astounding.
On Monday, the Bolts could not have looked more overmatched. On Wednesday, the team rebounded jumping out to a 5-1 lead in Toronto before the Maple Leafs tacked on two late goals.
Where does that leave us with analysis?
Conventional wisdom says both teams are neither as bad nor as good as they looked in their respective games against one another. At some point, the two squads should calibrate in the middle and this series will come down to the tinier details.
"I think that's a huge part, staying even-keeled," Bolts forward Alex Killorn said. "You can tend to get high. You can tend to get low. I think the good part of our team is we've been through a lot of these playoffs [experiences]."
Nothing says that more than the 15 consecutive wins Andrei Vasilevskiy has recorded after playoff losses. It is an NHL record. The Lightning has not lost back-to-back postseason games since the Columbus series in 2019.
“What does it take to bounce back? It takes character,” Bolts head coach Jon Cooper said. “Tip your hat to the guys, you lose a playoff game and they go in there saying, ‘We’re not losing this one.’"
“There’s a really good chance of winning the [Stanley] Cup if you can do that.”
The two-time defending champions have all the power entering Game 3 inside AMALIE Arena. As long as the Bolts take care of business at home, they will advance to the next series playing the Florida Panthers or Washington Capitals.
We are a long way from thinking about that, though.
Seemingly in the postseason, we see refs swallow the whistle, but that's not happening in this series.
In Game 1, we saw 5-on-5 hockey for only half the game.
In Game 2, the Lightning had seven power plays. The Maple Leafs had four. The difference here is the Bolts scored on three of those opportunities and Toronto only logged a short-handed goal from their special teamers.
Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe feels like the refs are calling a tighter game while Cooper believes the penalties are warranted.
"In the end, most of these penalties are deserved and both of these teams have to recognize that," Cooper said.
"I haven't watched or followed all the games, but there seems to be a real uptick in the calls for early in the series...it creates a different feel from what you anticipated coming into this series, for sure," Keefe said.
The three things to focus on for Friday's matchup are:
1. If both teams adjust on the penalties, as expected, how will the Lightning fair playing 5-on-5 hockey?
2. Can Andrei Vasilevskiy build off of that Game 2 performance? Even though he made some incredible saves, he still has given up three or more goals in six of his last eight games
3. The Tampa Bay Lightning return to their home for the first time in more than a week. Will there be rust playing inside AMALIE Arena again or can they extend their home postseason winning streak to seven games?
The Bolts are confident entering Game 3, but they know how quickly momentum can change in the series.