Leafs clobber Bolts in opening game

by Gary Shelton on May 3, 2022

in general

Vasilevskiy gave up five in first game./TIM WIRT

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

They entered the game talking about history.

They exited knowing that if they don't play better -- loads better -- they would soon be history.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, a team known for its post-season failures, slapped the two-time defending Stanlely Cup champions silly in Monday night's playoff opener. The Leafs won 5-0, and it could have been worse.

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The Leafs, who haven't won a playoff series since 2004, took all of its frustrations out on the Bolts. They were quicker, more dangerous, and made a loud statement. The series might not be over, but Toronto has kicked open the door.

Consider: The Lighting has played 48 post-season games the last two years. Only twice have the Bolts given up as many as five goals, and not once have they been shut out.

The Bolts had an early chance with seven minutes on the power play out of the first 12. But the Bolts didn't score, and Toronto's penalty kill kept the pressure on.

"The power play has been dominant," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "When we let the seven minutes of power play slide and not only do nothing with it, we gave them chance after chance, A little bit of frustration slipped in there that we didn't need to put upon ourselves. When you’re used to getting on the power play and going to center ice after you’ve scored, at some point,  we thought it was a rite and it was just going to happen again. Toronto had other ideas. Do we have better in us? Yes. When you don’t do something with it it can be a game of momentum.

“The frustration was out of not scoring on the power play. We’re better than that to challenge our energy."

The Rays weren't good in five-on-five, either. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy gave up five goals on 31 shots. Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point had only two shots each, and none of them found the net.

"This is a group that shown a lot of resilience the last three years," Cooper said. "It’s no guarantee because of our history, but we can draw from it. I have the utmost confidence in our group."

On the other side, NHL goal leader Auston Matthews had two goals.

 “They came out and played a really good game," Stamkos said. "Sometimes, you've got to give the other team credit. It was a big momentum swing early. The plays that we were making were hitting the sticks, hitting the skates. It could have been a different game if took advantage early."

The Bolts play at Toronto again on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m.

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