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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Maple Leafs Rally, 3-1 Series Lead Tampa Bay Lightning 1st in OT

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Auston Matthews knows better than anyone that Toronto’s mission is far from over.

The Maple Leafs took advantage of another late collapse of the Tampa Bay Lightning and are on the verge of winning their first playoff series in nearly 20 years with a 5-4 overtime victory in Game 4 of a best-of-seven series on Monday night.

Noel Acciari scored in Toronto’s second game in a row and, early in the second period, Juston Holl’s shot went past Vasilevskiy to briefly put the Maple Leafs within one goal before Tampa Bay went ahead 4-1 on goals by Stamkos and Killorn.

“Maybe there was a feeling we were going to get it off the ground,” Cooper said. “Obviously Toronto had other ideas.”

It was 2-0 after one period and the Maple Leafs were fortunate not to have a bigger deficit.

Goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov saved Brandon Hagel’s penalty less than eight minutes into the game, but the Lightning’s persistence paid off as Killorn and Sergachev scored the first goal of the series through a perfect feed from Nikita Kucherov.

In both cases, Samsonov was positioned to defend against a possible shot from Kucherov when the Lightning star instead passed the puck to Killorn and Sergachev in the right circle.

Killorn scored his first goal on the power play. His second came from a shot from the left circle that beat Samsonov to the far post with a three-goal lead.

Samsonov stopped 27 shots.

After winning the series opener on the road by a four-goal margin, the Lightning suffered three straight losses heading into Game 5.

“You have to look at the big picture. We’re still going to the rink,” Cooper said. “The series isn’t over yet.”

tough point

Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point was included in the lineup Monday night after battling Toronto’s Morgan Rielly for the loose puck and rolling a head first on the board. Rielly initially received a five-minute major penalty for boarding, but the call was eventually overturned. The hit sparked several fights, including separate fights against Steven Stamkos and Auston Matthews and Kucherov and Ryan O’Reilly. Point came back six minutes later to finish the game. Lightning coach John Cooper said earlier that a high-scoring center will be a game-time decision. Point assisted Sergachev’s goal, and Tampa Bay took a 2-0 lead in the first period.

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