Tampa Bay now moves on to face the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida Panthers in the second round, a rematch of a heated first-round series last year.
Toronto had two chances to send Tampa Bay packing after leading the series 3-2 following Game 5. The Leafs failed on both counts, and the Game 7 defeat marked a fifth consecutive first-round playoff series loss for Toronto. They are now 0-5 in their last five games with an opportunity to close a team out.
Tampa Bay hasn’t lost a first-round series since 2019, when they won the regular season’s Presidents Trophy only to be swept from the playoffs in four games by Columbus. They responded to that by going on back-to-back Stanley Cup runs.
The series against Toronto was hard-fought throughout, with wide-ranging momentum swings. The Leafs and Lightning traded lopsided wins through the first four games, to set up a come-from-behind win for Toronto in Game 5. Tampa staved off elimination in Game 6 with a 4-3 overtime win, the only game in the series that required extra time.
The Maple Leafs jumped all over Tampa Bay early but couldn’t slip anything past the rock-solid Andrei Vasilevskiy. It was still 0-0 late in the frame when Lightning center Brayden Point went sliding into the boards and had his right leg buckle under. Point writhed in immediate pain and was unable to put weight on the leg as he was helped off the ice.
Brayden Point left late in the first period after he slid into the boards with his right leg buckled under. The Lightning’s second-line center had to be helped off the ice and wasn’t able to put any weight on the leg.
Tampa Bay responded to Point’s loss with the game’s opening goal from Paul, who batted in a rebound off Jack Campbell‘s pad and gave Tampa a 1-0 lead after the first period.
Point surprisingly returned with Tampa for the second. He was only able to take one shift though before hunching over on the bench in obvious pain; Point would remain out for the rest of the night.
Meanwhile, the Leafs got to work solving Vasilevskiy. Toronto thought it had the tying goal when John Tavares slipped behind Tampa’s defense and scored, but that goal was waved off due to an interference call against Justin Holl prior to Tavares’ score.
It wasn’t until Rielly found the back of the net that the Leafs had the game knotted 1-1.
It wouldn’t take long for Paul to light the lamp again for Tampa Bay, with a nifty move through the Leafs’ defense and a shot past Campbell.
Toronto was down 2-1 in the third when Paul went in on Campbell again and bowled the goaltender over. Campbell went down but tried shaking off what appeared to be a leg injury. After a couple laps around the zone testing the leg out, Campbell stayed put. There was no call for goalie interference on the play. Campbell finished the game with 23 saves.
The Maple Leafs kept pressure on Tampa until the end but couldn’t find an equalizer as Vasilevskiy shut the door in a 30-save performance.