Maple Leafs wins over Lightning, Spezza, Holl make series debut
May 7, 2022
Against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of their first-round playoff game, the Toronto Maple Leafs welcomed Jason Spezza to the series for the first time.
Spezza was benched as a healthy roster in the first two contests after appearing in 71 games during the regular season.
During his 92 post-season appearances, Spezza has 28 goals and 75 points. He hasn't played in front of a full house since he was a member of the Dallas Stars in 2019.
In the 2021-22 season, Spezza had 12 goals and 13 assists.
"I don't think words can describe how hard it is to watch a game when you're a player," Spezza said. "It's difficult, but it's part of the process of being on a team.
"We have a great team here. We're gonna need to use our depth throughout playoffs, but as a player, it's one of the hardest things you do."
Justin Holl, a defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, is also expected to return to the lineup after missing the team's 5-0 win on Monday and Wednesday's 5-3 loss. On the third pair, Mark Giordano replaces Timothy Liljegren.
Toronto's Kyle Clifford, who served a one-game suspension for boarding Tampa Bay's Ross Colton in the opener, is eligible to play after serving his suspension.
Still, he and Wayne Simmonds are expected to be benched. In Game 2, the hard-nosed forward was penalized twice, which resulted in two power-play goals against the defending Stanley Cup champs.
Leafs vs Lightnings game highlights
So many goals have been scored by Stamkos from the left circle that he expects to find the back of the net more often than not.
Lightning's third-period power play in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series with Toronto was no different.
Forward Stamkos dropped to one knee and unleashed a shot he felt would find the back of the net after Nikita Kucherov's pass was threaded through traffic in the middle of the ice.
"I felt like I got everything and then some," Stamkos said.
On the other hand, Maple Leafs' goalkeeper Jack Campbell was able to track the puck from Kucherov to Stamkos' stick and then swallow it, making the most important save of the series.
Morgan Rielly scored 4:54 into the game, but Toronto's early momentum and three-goal deficit came from man-advantage opportunities.
David Kampf forced a turnover by Lightning forward Brandon Hagel in the neutral zone and drove into the slot for a 3-0 lead.
Maple Leafs scored in nine seconds left of Pat Maroon's puck-over-glass penalty. Despite surviving a Zach Bogosian high-sticking call midway through the period, the Lightning allowed seven scoring chances, including two high-danger and two penalty kills.
Toronto had a power play after Erik Cernak was punished for roughing late in the first period. In the second, defenseman Ryan McDonagh was called for another puck-over-glass penalty, and winger Ondrej Palat was called for midway period boarding.
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Lightning goalie, saves 31. However, Kucherov's inaccurate pass from below the goal line escaped Stamkos and resulted in Toronto's first of two empty-net goals in the last 1:40.
After two empty-net goals from Toronto, Tampa Bay fell to a 5-2 defeat and trailed the series by two games to one.
The Lightning won many games that they probably didn't deserve to win throughout the regular season. They overcame early blunders with a strong showing in the final minutes.
After falling behind 3-0 midway through the second period, they appeared to be on their way to another "find-a-way" victory when Stamkos was robbed.