TAMPA, Fla. – Brayden Point scored on a rebound with 1:56 remaining in the first overtime, giving the Tampa Bay Lightning a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night and forcing Game 7 in the first-round playoff series between the Atlantic Division rivals.
Ondrej Palat, Anthony Cirelli and Nikita Kucherov also scored for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, who blew a two-goal lead for the second straight game and trailed 3-2 entering the third period.
Andrei Vasilevskiy had 30 saves, nine overtime, to improve to 18-0 in games following a playoff loss over the past three postseasons. Jack Campbell stopped 32 of 36 shots for the Maple Leafs, who are chasing their first playoff series win in 18 years.
Game 7 is Saturday in Toronto.
The Lightning are trying to become the first team to capture three consecutive Stanley Cup titles since the New York Islanders won four straight from 1980-84.
The Maple Leafs, who’ve been eliminated in the first round each of the past five seasons, are 0-for-their-last-8 in close-out games.
Kucherov’s 5-on-3 power-play goal made it 3-all midway through the third period. Palat got the Lightning off to another fast start and Cirelli’s short-handed goal had the Maple Leafs facing a two-goal deficit that Auston Matthews and John Tavares wiped out over the last half of the second period.
Matthews cut into the deficit with his fourth goal of the series, and Tavares scored twice in the last 34 seconds of the second period to put the Maple Leafs ahead 3-2.
The Maple Leafs rallied to win Game 5 at home, overcoming an early two-goal deficit and scoring three times in the third period to win 4-3 and take a 3-2 series lead.
The Lightning, meanwhile, faced elimination in a series for just the second time over the past three postseasons. The New York Islanders extended them to Game 7 in last year’s Stanley Cup semifinals, with Tampa Bay’s winning 1-0 before going on to defeat the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Final.
The defending champs once again scored the first two goals Thursday night, with Palat taking advantage of a turnover in the neutral zone to beat Campbell on a breakaway and Cirelli using a spin move to shake defenseman Mark Giordano and put Lightning up 2-0 with his short-handed goal at 10:46 of the second period.
Matthews scored less than a minute later, re-directing Giordano’s shot through heavy traffic and past Vasilevskiy to trim Toronto’s deficit to 2-1. It looked like one goal might stand through the end of the period until the Maple Leafs mounted a another charge in the final minute.
Tavares’ hard shot from the left circle deflected off Vasilevskiy’s pad and up over the Lightning goaltender to tie it at 2. His second goal gave the Maple Leafs the lead with just eight seconds left before the second intermission.
With Toronto’s David Kampf and Alexander Kerfoot both in the penalty box for high-sticking, Kucherov — assisted by Point and Steven Stamkos — delivered his second goal of the series midway through the third period.
Matthews was announced Thursday as one of three finalist for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player. He finished the regular season with a franchise-record 60 goals, capturing the Rocket Richard Trophy for the second straight year. The other finalists are Connor McDavid and Igor Shesterkin.
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