Maple Leafs report cards: Lightning come from behind for overtime win to force Game 7

This series always felt like it was going to go the distance.

Though the Leafs played (mostly) as composed as they have all series, the Lightning stayed persistent, tying the game in the third period and forcing overtime. And with Brayden Point’s overtime goal to seal a 4-3 win, this insanely entertaining series will indeed go to seven games.

“We’ve just got to put our balls on the line and go for it,” said Auston Matthews postgame.

First star

John Tavares

Early on, Tavares’ line struggled to maintain pressure in the offensive zone. On balance, he hasn’t had the most dominant series, but full credit to Tavares for staying with the game. He intercepted pucks in his own zone well.

But most notable was how, in a short span in the second period, Tavares drove to the net and ended up getting the Leafs’ second goal after a scoring change and then used his anticipation to find an open area of ​​the ice, kick the puck onto his stick (any soccer play gets bonus marks) ahead of sniping the Leafs’ third goal.

Tavares only won 35 percent of his faceoffs, but with two goals, the Leafs’ captain still showed up when it mattered in Game 6.

Second star

William Nylander

Another banger of a game from Nylander. He just did not stop moving, retrieving pucks and playing with the outright confidence he’s become known for. One of the most talented Leafs made consistent efforts to try and break the game wide open offensively, darting through multiple Lightning players to take the puck to the net. Exhibit A: His heads-up play to set up Tavares for the Leafs’ third goal. He had two assists.

Third star

Auston Matthews

It had to be Matthews who put the Leafs back into the game with his tip-in goal in the second period (hardest play to pull off in sports, as loyal report cards readers know).

Matthews was dominant and determined from the beginning of the game, winning faces and logging the majority of the team’s shots on goal during an early stretch. But there were times when the little plays he made stuck out even more:

That he is consistently able to force turnovers with his size and quickly transition to offence is impressive to watch. He tied up Lightning players in his own zone effectively.

Matthews won 66 percent of his facesoffs and led the Leafs with six shots on goal.


Player reports

A

Mitch Marner

Marner continually read the play well in the neutral and defensive zones, picking off passes. That approach was only amplified during his play on the penalty kill when he swatted away passes and cleared the puck from the Leafs’ zone.

Marner didn’t log a single point, but he still had 69 percent of the 5-on-5 expected goals, a team-high.

A-

Jake Muzzin

Muzzin played a mostly safe game, moving the puck cleanly. I thought his anticipation during the Leafs’ push toward the end of the third period was notable. His 65 percent 5-on-5 expected goals were the highest among all defensemen. And that’s even more impressive considering he logged a team-high 30:15 TOI. For someone who might be struggling with injuries, he’s putting together a good series.

B+

Morgan Riley

Rielly looked engaged for most of the game, making smart defensive reads, physical plays and plays with his stick more often than not.

Jack Campbell

Campbell’s first noteworthy save, featuring him leaping into the air to grab a puck in the air, might have been unorthodox but it was a sign of how eager he was to try and make a difference in the game.

Luckily, that was the only outlandish save Campbell made. To my eyes, none of the four goals scored on Campbell were on him, and I thought he played exactly as calm and composed as he needed to. He stopped 31-of-35 shots.

B

TJ Brodie

Smart and responsible defensive work from Brodie continually helped the Leafs get out of a jam. How many times have we heard that before?

Justin Hall

Holl’s quick stick work was a benefit when the Lightning came at the Leafs with pace, especially late in the second period when Nikita Kucherov appeared to have Holl beat.

His block on an Anthony Cirelli shot in overtime stood out.

B-

Mark Giordano

After a slow start, Giordano grew into the game with more and more passes into the right areas of the ice. The Leafs needed composure up and down the lineup in a pivotal game, and they got it from Giordano.

Late in the game, I thought Giordano tried to tie up Lightning players well, and his diving block in front of Campbell in overtime undoubtedly won him a few more fans in Toronto. He played a simple game, as evidenced by his work to simply put the puck on net ahead of the Leafs’ second-period goal. He earned the primary assist on the play.

He couldn’t properly shut down Anthony Cirelli on the Lightning’s second goal, though.

David Kampf

Kampf’s offensive presence continues to be an underrated part of his game. He had four shots on goal, second among the Leafs.

He didn’t overthink things, opting to put the puck on net with nearly every open look.

Also, I’m here for David Kampf, the pest:

His high-sticking penalty was highly questionable, but I promised myself I wouldn’t wade too deep into the “Let’s talk the penalties called in this series” waters.

C+

Alex Kerfoot

Not a great look from Kerfoot to blindly pass the puck back into his own zone and see it quicklyed by Ondrej Palat intercept. You could counter that Brodie could have anticipated the pass and been in a better spot, but it still feels like an out-of-character play for the normally smart playmaker.

Credit to Kerfoot though: He kept at it, consistently bringing energy and not getting down on himself in any way. His smart pass to move the puck up toward Nylander ahead of the Leafs’ third goal led to as deserving a secondary assist as you’ll find. He was buzzing during a late third-period push.

Michael Bunting

Some heads-up work with Bunting’s stick forced a turnover in the neutral zone and a shot on goal shortly afterward. He continued to try and get involved defensively. I thought Bunting went quiet at times, but it’s worth remembering he’s almost certainly not playing at 100 percent right now.

Ilya Lyubushkin

There were some decent efforts from Lyubushkin to neutralize Steven Stamkos as the Lightning forward charged into the Leafs’ zone. He won’t get much credit for it, but Lyubushkin sent a perfect pass into the middle of the ice in the lead-up to the Leafs’ second goal.

Like a few Leafs, his well-timed blocks made a difference:

Ilya Mikheyev

I didn’t love Mikheyev’s play in the offensive zone. It felt like he was a step too slow to get on loose pucks. And his pass ahead of the Lightning’s second goal felt like it was asking for trouble.

His play improved, especially in overtime, though.

Ondřej Kase

Kase’s soft, one-touch pass helped create the Leafs’ second goal. Otherwise, I didn’t see him having the most noticeable impact in this game. I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt as it’s entirely possible he might not be at full health, and he is playing limited minutes.

Colin Blackwell

Blackwell did well to carry the puck deep into the offensive zone and allow for some sustained pressure.

Jason Spezza

I don’t know if I can say much more than my man Fitzy does here:

After it looked like Spezza scored the tying goal, he ended up getting an assist. No surprise, given that he’s been providing assistance to the Leafs on and off the ice all series.

I know he logged a team-low 6:19 TOI but he made an impact in that time.

C

Pierre Engvall

My expectations of Engvall have grown as of late, so I expected more from him in such a pivotal game. Save for his efforts to throw the puck on net toward the end of the second period and create some traffic in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy, the puck came off his stick a little too quickly for me. The physicality that can be a difference-maker for the Leafs was not evident, either.

His mad dash in overtime, followed by an influential play with his stick in the Lightning zone, were highlights, however.


Game Score

Game Score is a metric developed by The Athletic‘s Dom Luszczyszyn to quickly measure a player’s performance in a single game.

Final grade: B+

Since 2013, the Leafs are now 0-9 when they have had a chance to win a playoff round. Over the last three seasons, the Lightning have not lost two games in a row in the playoffs.

Now, this might not provide any consolation to defeat Leafs fans out there, but this was a game the Leafs had every right to win, owning the majority of the 5-on-5 possession (52 percent) and expected goals (53 percent) . It took a 5-on-3 power play for the Lightning to tie the game. The Leafs’ play in overtime was full of the heart that this team is sometimes accused of not having. Again, if you’re a Leafs fan, that the Leafs just kept working is a positive sign heading into Game 7.

“I loved the fight in our team today,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe postgame.

And forget about what I said earlier, there was some real head shaking stuff from the referees in Game 6:

Both Matthews and Tavares declined to comment about the refereeing in the game, for what it’s worth.

Where do the Leafs go from here?

Back to Toronto, with another chance to win their first playoff round since 2004.

Saturday should be a calm, relaxing day, no?

Tweets of the night

It felt like a lot of my favorite Leafs Twitter follows were a little more quiet than usual ahead of and during Game 6. I guess it’s difficult to tweet if your phone keeps falling out of consistently sweaty hands.

This one very much captured the mood, then:

Some loyal Leafs fans had the passion even late in the game:

And for some fans postgame, words couldn’t do their emotions justice.

(Stats via Natural Stat Trick)

(Photo: Mike Carlson/NHLI via Getty Images)

.

Leave a Comment