The Tampa Bay Lightning’s bid for a third consecutive Stanley Cup is in trouble.
Or is it?
The Lightning blew a third-period lead as the Toronto Maple Leafs won 4-3 and took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series.
“That game was there for the taking for us and we just let it slip through our fingers,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper told reporters.
The Lightning have recent history on their side, though. They are heading home for Game 6 and they are 16-0 following a loss since the start of the 2020 postseason. Toronto, meanwhile, hasn’t won a first-round series since 2004. In 2018, 2019 and 2021, the Leafs got three wins but failed to get a fourth.
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Tampa Bay will need more to keep the run alive. The Lightning appeared to be headed for another blowout win with two quick goals in the first period, but they couldn’t get another puck past Jack Campbell until the third period.
By that time, the Leafs had rallied to take a 3-2 lead on a second-period goal by John Tavares and third-period goals by Morgan Rielly and William Nylander 73 seconds apart. It was the first lead change in the series.
Tampa Bay’s Ryan McDonagh tied up the game, but he was later caught up ice, leading to a 2-on-1 break for Toronto. Auston Matthews scored on a so-called pass-off-pads from Mitch Marner.
“Just an unbelievable key play by him,” Matthews said. “I had the whole net to shoot at. I just had to get my stick on the ice.”
Matthews said veteran Jason Spezza had talked to the team during the first intermission.
“The main message was that wasn’t our best period and we just got to go out there and compete and get back to our game,” he said.
The Maple Leafs took play to the Lightning in the second period and scored three goals on seven shots in the third period.
Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, last year’s Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP, has given up at least three goals in every game this round.
The Lightning will also have to figure out how to shut down the Leafs stars, especially with Tavares finally having a big game.
“We haven’t let a series slip away,” Cooper said. “We let a game slip away.”
The Edmonton Oilers had staged a furious rally in Game 5, overcoming two two-goal deficits in the third period to tie the game 4-4 against the Los Angeles Kings.
But Kings All-Star Adrian Kempe ended it quickly in overtime, silencing the Oilers crowd by scoring at 1:12 to give Los Angeles a 3-2 series lead. It was his second goal of the game.
His celebration said it all.
“We had a good mentality going into overtime,” he told ESPN. “It’s been like that all year. It doesn’t matter if we’re down or if we’re up. We can still always rely on our identity and we did that tonight.”
Oilers’ Darnell Nurse faces hearing for head-butt
The NHL Player Safety department announced Wednesday that Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse would have a hearing for head-butting Los Angeles’ Phillip Danault during Game 5.
If he’s suspended, the Oilers would be missing their top defenseman as they face an elimination game against the Kings on Thursday. Nurse played 26 minutes, 23 seconds in Tuesday’s overtime loss.
Carolina Hurricanes forward Seth Jarvis scored two goals in a 5-1 win against the Boston Bruins.
The first was a little strange.
Knocked to the ice, he tried to pass the puck in front of the net. But it hit Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk’s skate and floated over Jeremy Swayman’s shoulder.
“A lot of things had to go perfect for that to even happen,” he said.
His second goal was more traditional as he scored off a rebound.
Jarvis said he was still feeling the effects of being felled by a shot to the groin in Game 4. But he didn’t mind being back in front of the net.
“If I get hit again, I get hit again,” he said. “Well, I say that now, but if I get hit again, I might be down even longer.”
The Hurricanes lead the series 3-2.
Pittsburgh at NY Rangers, 7 pm ET, ESPN. Penguins lead 3-1
Washington at Florida, 7:30 pm ET, ESPN2. Series tied 2-2
Dallas at Calgary, 9:30 pm ET, ESPN. Series tied 2-2
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NHL playoffs: Maple Leafs push Lightning to brink; Oiler faces hearing