TAMPA, Fla. — Morgan Rielly scored at 19:15 of overtime and Ilya Samsonov made 36 saves as the Toronto Maple Leafs came back from a goal down late in the third period Saturday to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 and take a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.
The defenceman fired a shot from the side boards that floated past the ear of Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevsky before getting mobbed by teammates.
Ryan O’Reilly, with a goal a late in regulation that forced OT to go along with two assists, Auston Matthews and Noel Acciari scored in regulation for Toronto. Marner added two assists.
Brandon Hagel, with a goal and an assist, Anthony Cirelli and Darryn Raddysh replied for Tampa, which got 23 stops from Vasilevskiy.
Game 4 of the best-of-seven matchup goes Monday back at Amalie Arena.
Lighting defenceman Victor Hedman returned to the lineup after sitting out Game 2 with an undisclosed injury.
Toronto fell to the Lightning in a tight, seven-game series last spring at the same stage of the playoffs.
The teams traded blowout victories to the open the series — the Lightning thumped the Leafs 7-3 in the opener before Toronto responded with an equally emphatic 7-2 triumph in Game 2 to set the stage for a tightly contested affair.
Tied 2-2 after Saturday’s opening 20 minutes, Raddysh scored his first career playoff goal at 13:34 of the second. The defenceman took a pass at the point and wheel down the boards and around Samsonov’s net — fighting off both Matthew Knies and Jake McCabe in the process — before firing upstairs.
Tampa, which tilted the ice heavily earlier in the period on an under-siege Samsonov, appeared to go up by two on a power play off a strange sequence where the puck popped in front, but the officials ruled the Toronto netminder had it frozen before Brayden Point poked it home.
Injured in Game 7 of last year’s series, Point left later in the period after going shoulder-to-shoulder with Rielly and crashing into the boards.
Tampa’s 51-goal man tried to get up, but crumpled to the ice before heading to the locker room as players on both sides dropped the gloves, including a chaotic fight between Matthews — his first in the NHL — and Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Point eventually returned to action after receiving treatment.
Toronto, which lost Game 6 in the same building last spring, had a two-minute power play when the dust settled, but were unable to capitalize with Matthews, Rielly and O’Reilly all in the box.
Samsonov kept his team in it with a big save on Nick Paul at the midway point of the period.
Matthews, Stamkos, O’Reilly and Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov all missed nearly nine minutes of action because of the fighting majors and an extended stretch without a whistle.
Reilly got Toronto back even with exactly a minute left in regulation and Samsonov on the bench for an extra attacker with his second of the series from in tight after William Nylander threw the puck at Vasilevskiy to force OT.
Samsonov made a couple huge stops early in the extra period that was mostly one-way traffic, including on a great individual effort from Kucherov before Rielly won it.
Looking to advance in the post-season for the first time since 2004, the Leafs opened the scoring at 3:24 of the first when Acciari scored on a 3-on-2 rush off a feed from Knies.
Tampa, which won the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021 before also making last spring’s final, responded 1:26 later when Cirelli fired past Samsonov on another odd-man rush.
Toronto went back in front at 11:10 at the end of terrific shift when Matthews tipped a Marner one-timer past Vasilevsky for his first goal of the playoffs.
The Leafs survived a late Lightning power play, but Hagel tied it 2-2 when his shot hit the T.J. Brodie’s stick and snuck over the line underneath a splayed Samsonov with 30.1 seconds left in the period.
Teams that take a 2-1 lead in a best-of-seven series hold an all-time record of 374-165 (. 694), but were just a 5-7 (. 417) mark last spring, including 2-5 in the first round.
KNIES ON THE PRIZE
The Leafs rookie picked up his first playoff point on Acciari’s goal on the same ice where he lost the Frozen Four final in OT with the University of Minnesota on April 8 before signing with Toronto.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2023.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press