Stanley Cup playoffs: Lightning, Hurricanes advance with Game 7 wins
Nick Paul came through with the best playoff performance of his career when the Tampa Bay Lightning needed it most, and the two-time defending champions are moving on again.
Paul scored twice, including an incredible individual effort on the tiebreaking goal late in the second period, and the Lightning beat the host Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 in Game 7 on Saturday night to win their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.
“The electricity in this building was nuts,” said Paul, a native of Mississauga, Ontario. “To come in and work as hard as we did, there was no doubt in our game. We stuck together.”
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 29 shots for the Lightning.
Morgan Rielly scored for Toronto, which hasn’t reached the second round since 2004 and fell to 0-9 in elimination games over the last five postseasons after also losing 4-3 in Game 6 at Tampa, Fla., two nights earlier. Jack Campbell had 23 saves.
“A great hockey team,” Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos said of the Maple Leafs. “They’ve got all the pieces. It’s not easy this time of the year. We’ve had some failures in the past. You just move on, and you just gotta get over that hump.”
The Maple Leafs were once again unable to push through and finally flip a long, ugly narrative of playoff failures for a franchise that has now lost its last seven series, including six straight dating to 2017.
“It’s hard to explain,” Toronto captain John Tavares said. “It’s frustrating, hard to fathom. It stings, it hurts, it’s disappointing.”
Toronto fell to 7-3 all time at home in Game 7s, including a loss at Scotiabank Arena last season after blowing a 3-1 series lead against the Montreal Canadiens.
“A game of inches,” said Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews, who scored 60 goals during the regular season and four more in playoffs. “Unfortunately, we’re on the bad side of things tonight. It’s really frustrating. Every guy in there competed and gave it their all. They made one more play than us.”
The Kings’ aspirations to play postseason spoiler came to an end in a 2-0 loss to the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of the Western Conference quarterfinals.
Down 1-0 after 20 minutes in this one, the Maple Leafs appeared to tie the score at 11:28 of the second when Tavares roofed a shot on Vasilevskiy, but the goal was waved off after Toronto defenseman Justin Holl was whistled for interference.
Campbell had to make a couple of desperation stops on the ensuing penalty kill to set the stage for Rielly’s equalizer off a setup from Mitch Marner and Matthews to score his third of the playoffs at 6:35 to send the crowd of 19,316 into a frenzy.
The goal was the first surrendered by Vasilevskiy and the Lightning in their last six series-deciding games.
William Nylander then missed high on a breakaway, and the Tampa Bay goaltender robbed Matthews with the Maple Leafs buzzing.
But Paul scored his second goal of the night — and second ever in the playoffs — with 3:28 remaining in the period on a terrific play where he kicked the puck from his skate to his stick.
Tampa Bay nearly made it 3-1 late in the period when Nikita Kucherov hit the goal post from the slot.
Vasilevskiy was under siege throughout a Toronto power play just more than six minutes into the third, but he kept the home side at bay despite some furious pressure.
Toronto continued to press inside an anxious, tension-filled rink as the clock ticked down.
The Maple Leafs, however, just couldn’t find a way through with Campbell on the bench for an extra skater to complete another chapter of playoff disappointment.
“This one hurts more because this was a really good team that really played hard,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “You can debate the merits of any sort of credit that you might want to give our team. But I don’t know if you can debate anything that you give the Tampa Bay Lightning, and who they are and what they stand for and what they’ve accomplished.
“And we’re right there standing with them.”
Brayden Point, who scored the winner in Tampa Bay’s Game 6 victory to extend the series, was injured late in the first period when his right leg got caught underneath him as he fell to the ice. The forward — in agony as he headed down the tunnel to the locker room — tried to return for the second period but shut it down after a brief shift.
“When Pointer got hurt, it seemed to lock the entire team in,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “I don’t think we looked back.”
The Lightning went up 1-0 moments after Point went down in the first when Paul, who had a number of chances in Game 5 with his team ahead before Toronto roared back, scored his first. Campbell made the initial stop on Ross Colton’s one-timer off the rush that nicked Rielly’s stick, but the rebound fell to Paul at 1:36 as Toronto surrendered the first goal for a fourth straight game.
The Lightning were playing in just their second Game 7 since the start of the 2020 playoffs after defeating the New York Islanders 1-0 at home in the semifinals last June.
This was Toronto’s first Game 7 at home with fans — the club’s 2021 loss against Montreal was played in front of 550 healthcare workers because of COVID-19 restrictions — since 2004 when Joe Nieuwendyk scored twice to oust the Ottawa Senators.
at Hurricanes 3, Bruins 2
Max Domi scored twice in the second period and Antti Raanta had 27 saves to help Carolina beat Boston to win the deciding Game 7 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series.
Teuvo Teravainen also scored for the Hurricanes, who finally put away a Bruins team that swept them in the 2019 Eastern Conference finals and then took a five-game first-round series in the Toronto bubble a year later.
“It’s such a different feeling coming into this one,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I think back in the other ones, if we would’ve won, you guys might have been a little surprised.
“This time around, I felt like it was our time. Our guys have matured. I think they felt that too.”
Carolina’s victory ended a series in which neither team could manage a road win, with the Hurricanes eventually getting the final word backed by yet another rowdy and loud home crowd.
“Obviously we needed one on the road, and we couldn’t do that,” Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron said.
Carolina advanced to the second round to face the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Domi was an unlikely star in this one. Carolina acquired him ahead of the March trade deadline, and he rewarded the Hurricanes by scoring the first postseason goals of his career. He also assisted on Teravainen’s goal with a perfect pass to the top of the crease for the first-period putaway.
“Obviously, I was pretty lucky to come to a team like this,” Domi said.
Raanta, who had never started a postseason game before this series, was again steady in net. He had probably his best stop on a full-split save to deny Taylor Hall near the left post in the first period of a scoreless game.
Jake DeBrusk scored a second-period goal for the Bruins, while David Pastrnak had one with 21.7 seconds left in the game with Boston having pulled goalie Jeremy Swayman for the extra attacker.
From there, the Hurricanes had to hang on through one final clock-killing shift to protect the lead before they could finally celebrate.
“When they got the second one, it was probably the longest 20 seconds in my life for sure,” Raanta said.
Swayman finished with 28 saves for Boston.
The Bruins found themselves playing catch-up after Domi’s first goal, in which he skated in on the left side to bury a redirect attempt from Jordan Staal at 3:14 of the second.
Later, after DeBrusk had beaten Raanta from the top of the crease, Teravainen whipped a pass to Domi for a one-timer that blasted the puck past Swayman at 10:33 of the second for a 3-1 lead.
The Bruins, a tested veteran squad, were in the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
The Hurricanes never trailed in the series before finally grinding through after dominating the Bruins in three regular-season meetings. And Boston heads into an offseason with some uncertainty about the future of longtime No. 1 center Bergeron, who can become an unrestricted free agent after 18 seasons with the team.
The Hurricanes improved to 6-0 in Game 7s since the former Hartford Whalers relocated to North Carolina in 1997. That includes the 2006 Stanley Cup Final against Edmonton as well as a second-round series win on the road at Boston in 2009.
This marks the first time Boston exited from the playoffs without winning a series since the Bruins fell in a six-game series to Ottawa in 2017.
The Hurricanes had their biggest home crowd in franchise history for this one with an attendance of 19,513.
Go beyond the scoreboard
Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.