TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs two to one in Game 7 on Saturday night in Toronto at Scotiabank Arena to win the overall series four to three.
After suffering an early injury blow from Brayden Point in the first period that kept him out for the rest of the game, Nick Paul scored two goals, one in the first and the other in the second period, to secure a Bolts away win.
The Maple Leafs equalized in the second period with a goal from Morgan Rielly, but the Lightning made sure to bounce back by getting a goal to put them back on top two to one.
The advancement keeps Tampa Bay's hopes of winning the Stanley Cup Championship three times in a row, and they will now face the Florida Panthers in round two of the NHL Playoffs.
The Panthers defeated the Washington Capitals four to two in the series to move on to 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 date, time and location for the Bolts' next game against the Panthers have not yet been confirmed.
We've got real-time coverage of the game below in our live blog.
Bolts win Game 7 by two goals to one! End of 3rd period.
Five minutes remaining in the third period. Bolts remain up top 2-1.
The 3rd and last period begins.
Tampa Bay will be taking a 2-1 lead into the last period as the 2nd period concludes.
Nick Paul gets his second goal of the game to put the Bolts back on top 2-1!
Toronto gets an equalizer and this time it will count. 1-1.
Lightning pile pressure but can't score a goal as power play comes to an end. Toronto is back to full strength.
Toronto's first goal of the game is called off after Maple Leafs' Justin Holl sets a pick on Lightning's Anthony Cirelli. Tampa Bay is still up 1-0 and rewarded a power play.
Bradley Point returns to the ice briefly before returning to the bench after still appearing to be in pain.
The second period is underway. Bolts will start the first 35 seconds shorthanded after Toronto was awarded a power play at the end of the first period.
Huge save from Andrei Vasilevskiy to keep Tampa Bay in the lead heading into the next period! 1-0 to the Lightning at the end of the first period.
Goal! The Bolts are first on the scoresheet with a Nick Paul goal! Assisted by Ross Colton. 1-0 to the Bolts
Bradley Point heads to the bench after appearing to be in some pain after crashing into the far wall.
The Lightning is rewarded with their first power play of the game.
Toronto is awarded the first power play of the game after Brayden Point is whistled for tripping.
The puck is dropped and we're underway at Scotiabank Arena!
The Tampa Bay Lightning's starters for Game 7 are Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point, Alex Killorn, Victor Hedman, Erik Cernak and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Lightning fans are having a huge turnout at Armature Works.
The Tampa Bay Lightning arrive at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Bolts fans are showing up a couple of hours early to Armature Works as they prepare for the Game 7 watch party against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Game Preview Below:
After a thrilling overtime win against the Maple Leafs in Game 6, Steven Stamkos summed up what Saturday is going to feel like for both teams.
"It's do or die. You leave it all out there."
That is exactly what the Lightning did inside AMALIE Arena against the Maple Leafs to edge Toronto, 4-3.
If you extract the final minute of the 2nd period where the Bolts mentally checked out of the game, the team really buckled down defensively.
On the flip side, the Lightning struggled to impose any sort of offensive will. There were certain stretches, but the three goals in regulation were the result of a foolish turnover by Toronto, an otherworldly shorthanded goal by Anthony Cirelli and a 5-on-3 power play goal by Nikita Kucherov.
"It wasn't pretty, but it was what we needed to do," Stamkos said.
If you're the Maple Leafs, despite owning a 0-9 record in series-clinching games since 2005, you should feel pretty confident those mistakes can be cleaned up.
"The feeling in our team is one of great confidence," Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said.
The biggest takeaway from the Game 6 thriller was the fact the referees swallowed their whistles. In the first five matchups, the results were heavily influenced by special teams, and although the Bolts did have a 5-on-3 opportunity in the 3rd period, this contest was, mostly, a 5-on-5 battle.
What does that mean for Game 7?
No idea, but it could be an indicator the refs will steer clear of inserting themselves into the series-deciding matchup.
Beyond that, whatever has happened up until this point does not really matter. This series has been a boxing match -- two teams going punch-for-punch, but Saturday's tilt will finally deliver the knockout blow.
The margin for error is non-existent.
"It's almost like you're playing three overtime periods," Stamkos said.
The Tampa Bay Lightning certainly know how to win after a postseason loss extending their NHL record consecutive streak to 18 games, but they still have not won back-to-back contests in three weeks.
Experience should help this group whereas the Toronto Maple Leafs will have to deal with the 'choker' label for 48 hours.
The Lightning is 6-3 in nine all-time Game 7's, including a 2-2 record as the road team. The Maple Leafs are 12-13 in 25 Game 7's, but they do own a 7-2 mark at home.
Puck drops inside Scotiabank Arena Saturday at 7:00 p.m. The Tampa Bay Lightning is hosting a watch party at Armature Works for the monumental game.