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The Toronto Maple Leafs have the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning on the ropes thanks to Auston Matthews’ go-ahead goal in the third period on Tuesday night.
Mitchell Marner received a pass in the neutral zone after a Lightning turnover and tried to fire one past goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Tampa Bay goaltender stopped the shot but it bounced right to a surging Matthews who cleaned it up and sent one into the back of the net.
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It was Matthews’ third goal of the series and it gave Toronto a 4-3 win.
The win put Toronto up 3-2 in the series and on the verge of sending the powerful Lightning home early in the playoffs for the first time in two seasons.
Tampa Bay got off to a hot start, scoring the first two goals of the game.
Steven Stamkos picked up the first goal on assists from Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat. Victor Hedman would follow Stamkos later in the first period on assists from Kucherov and Alex Killorn.
SETH JARVIS, ANTTI RAANTA HELP HURRICANES TOP BRUINS FOR 3-2 SERIES LEAD
But three goals straight from Toronto put the Maple Leafs up early in the third.
John Tavares started the scoring with a goal in the second period off assists from Mark Giordano and William Nylander and then in the third, Morgan Rielly and Nylander would score to put Toronto up 3-2.
Tampa Bay’s Ryan McDonagh nailed the equalizer in the third before Matthews’ eventual game-winner.
Vasilevskiy finished with 21 saves. Toronto’s Jack Campbell had 32 saves.
Toronto has lost in the first round four out of the last five years and lost in the qualifying round during the 2020 qualifying round during the coronavirus-impacted season. Tampa Bay hasn’t lost in the first round of the playoffs since the 2019 playoffs.
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Game 6 is set for Thursday night in Tampa.