Rielly’s OT winner gives Maple Leafs series lead over Lightning
Morgan Rielly has had a tough time as the longest tenured member of the Maple Leafs.
The veteran defenseman and his Toronto teammates showed enough fight and did enough on a night where they were mostly second best.
Drafted fifth overall by the Leafs in the 2012 NHL Draft, Rielly hit a shot off the sideboards that went past Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy’s right ear after Ryan O’Reilly won a faceoff in the offensive zone.
“A leader for us,” Leafs captain John Tavares said of Riel. “Competes every day. There is no change in his approach, his personality, his mood, no matter how things go.
“Whether it’s with himself or with the team, he just continues to be humble, hardworking, very driven and gives it his all.”
WATCH |: Rielly lifts Maple Leafs over Lightning in OT.
O’Reilly, with a late goal to force two assists in OT, Auston Matthews and Noel Acciari scored for Toronto. Mitch Marner had two assists.
The Leafs, who haven’t won a postseason series since 2004 and have suffered a string of recent playoff disappointments with a talented core led by Matthews, Marner and Tavares, regained home-ice advantage with grit against a seasoned championship contender. – caliber opponent.
“We certainly got bent here tonight, but we didn’t break,” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “The Tampa Bay Lightning played an unbelievable game of hockey.”
“I really liked the way we played,” said Tampa coach John Cooper, whose team beat Toronto in a series that went back to the same round of the playoffs last spring. “There are two really good hockey teams out there.
“We had great opportunities.”
Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is Monday at Amalie Arena.
The teams traded blowouts to open the series. The Lightning beat the Leafs 7-3 in the opener before Toronto responded with an equally emphatic 7-2 victory in Game 2, setting the stage for a highly contested affair.
Tied 2-2 after Saturday’s opening 20 minutes, Reddish scored his first career playoff goal at 13:34 of the second. The defenseman took a pass at the point and wheeled down the boards and around Samsonov’s net, fighting off both Matthew Kniss and Jake McCabe in the process before firing up.
Tampa, which had tilted the ice a lot earlier in the lockout Samsonov era, appeared to go up two on the power play with an odd sequence where the puck came forward, but the officials ruled that Toronto’s net analysis had frozen it earlier. Braden Point took it home.
“I was shocked,” Cooper said of the call.
Point is injured
Point, injured in Game 7 of last year’s series, left later after going shoulder-to-shoulder with Riel and crashing into the boards.
Tampa’s 51-goal scorer tried to get up but crumpled to the ice before heading to the locker room as players from both sides dropped the gloves, including a chaotic fight between Matthews, his first in the NHL, and Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. After receiving treatment, the whale eventually returned to action.
“I thought the play was clean,” Rielly said. “[Point] It’s going hard and I understand his teammates are frustrated by that.”
Toronto, which lost Game 6 in OT last spring in the same building, had a two-minute power play when the dust settled but couldn’t capitalize with Matthews, Rielly and O’Reilly all in the box.
Keefe said his team deserved a 5-on-3 man advantage out of the fumble.
“A classic example of a veteran, championship team like Tampa Bay manipulating the officials and taking advantage of the situation,” he said. “They know we’re basically already starting the power play … so it’s a free-for-all to do whatever they want.”
Samsonov, meanwhile, kept his team in the game with a big save on Nick Paul midway through the period.
“Standed his ground,” Keefe said. “Played his best hockey when it mattered most, when we just couldn’t afford to give up the next goal.”
Matthews, Stamkos, O’Reilly and Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov missed nearly nine minutes due to scrimmages and a no-whistle overtime.
O’Reilly pulled Toronto back even with exactly a minute left in the game and Samsonov was benched for the extra attacker, the second attacker this series to force OT after William Nylander hit Vasilevskiy.
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“It’s a great feeling,” said O’Reilly, the 2019 Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP.
“It wasn’t our best game, but we stuck with it until the end.”
Early in the extra period, Samsonov made several huge stops that were mostly one-sided, including one on a great individual effort by Kucherov before Riel beat it.
Phenomenal all night,” Tavares said of his goalie. “He’s the backbone.”
The Leafs opened the scoring at 3:24 of the first when Achiari scored before Tampa, which won the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021 as well as the Finals last spring, responded 1:26 later when Cirelli fired past Samsonov.
COOKIE TIME!! 🍪⏰ pic.twitter.com/lPOwqUsBPm
Toronto took the lead back at 11:10 when Matthews tipped a Marner one-timer past Wasilewski.
“We’ve lost this game a lot over the years,” Keefe said.
“The guys stuck with it and made sure we won.”
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