Sorting by


Brayden Point scores twice, Lightning embarrass Maple Leafs 7-3 in Game 1

TORONTO — Brayden Point scored twice as the Tampa Bay Lightning humiliated the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-3 in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Tuesday.

Nikita Kucherov and Corey Perry both added a goal and two assists for Tampa, while Anthony Cirelli and Ross Colton chipped in with a goal and assist each.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare also scored for Tampa, which connected on four power plays. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 28 saves in his 100th playoff start.

Ryan O’Reilly, William Nylander and Calle Jarnkrok replied for Toronto. Mitch Marner had three assists. Auston Matthews had two of his own.

Ilya Samsonov allowed six goals on 29 shots before getting replaced by Joseph Woll to start the third period. The rookie netminder finished with four stops.

The Lightning, who bested the Leafs in seven games at the same stage last spring on the way to their third consecutive Stanley Cup appearance, can take a 2-0 series lead Thursday back at Scotiabank Arena.

Toronto is desperately looking to end an ugly string of post-season failures that has seen the Original Six franchise fail to advance since 2004.

The Leafs have lost seven straight series dating back to 2013, including six in a row with the talented core led by Matthews, Marner and Nylander. Toronto captain John Tavares has gone 0-5 since signing on in 2018.

The battle-tested Lightning, meanwhile, won the Cup in both 2020 and 2021 before falling to the Colorado Avalanche in last year’s final.

One team looked confident Thursday. The other froze at the first opportunity to once again — finally — flip its long playoff narrative that includes 55 years without a championship.

Tampa opened the scoring against the surprisingly timid and disconnected Leafs just 1:18 into the first period to silence the raucous, towel-waving crowd when Bellemare scored on a rebound after Zach Aston-Reese couldn’t clear the puck.

The Lightning, who struggled down the stretch without much to play for and knowing they were locked into a Toronto rematch, made it 2-0 exactly six minutes later when Cirelli buried a rebound on a scramble after the Leafs gave the puck away in the neutral zone.

Toronto, which beat Tampa 5-0 in Game 1 in the same building last spring, started to push back with Matthews showing the most fight. 

But the visitors went up three with just 2.6 seconds remaining in the period on a power play when a Kucherov one-timer beat Samsonov short side.

Toronto got one back on a power play with O’Reilly — the biggest piece of the team’s roster reconstruction ahead of the March trade deadline — eight minutes into the second.

Samsonov made a huge stop on Perry before Nylander fired through a screen on another man advantage to make it 3-2 inside a pulsating rink.

Toronto defenceman Jake McCabe then levelled Michael Eyssimont to send the Tampa centre to the locker room, but Point made it 4-2 on another power play moments later.

Any hope of a Leafs’ comeback was dashed when winger Michael Bunting was assessed a match penalty and game misconduct for an illegal check to the head on Erik Cernak, which also sent the Lightning defenceman down the Tampa tunnel.

Already minus fellow top-4 blue-liner Victor Hedman, who didn’t take a shift after the opening period, the visitors restored their three-goal lead when Perry jammed a puck in tight at Samsonov’s post two minutes before the intermission.

The play stood after a Toronto challenge for goaltender interference, handing the Lightning a 5-on-3 power play.

The Leafs survived that, but Point — and his 51 goals in the regular season — scored his second of the night with one-tenth of a second remaining on the clock for a 6-2 margin.

Toronto was booed off the ice at the intermission buzzer before Colton stretched the lead to a jaw-dropping five on a breakaway seven minutes into the final period. 

Promoted to the top line with Bunting getting an early shower, Jarnkrok got Toronto’s third to cap an embarrassing night.


Drafted by the Leafs in 2008 and traded away in 2012, veteran defenceman Luke Schenn suited up for his first playoff game with Toronto nearly 15 years after first joining the organization.

The 33-year-old played for six organizations in the interim — including Cup wins with Tampa in 2020 and 2021 — before the Vancouver Canucks dealt him to Toronto in late February.

“Better late than never,” Schenn said Tuesday morning. “It’s been a long time in the making.” 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 18, 2023.


Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press