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Toronto hockey fans to gather downtown as Maple Leafs try to exorcise playoff demons

TORONTO — Maple Leafs fans will gather in downtown Toronto tonight, as the team tries to advance to the second round of the National Hockey League playoffs for the first time since 2004.

The Maple Leafs have a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning after back-to-back comeback wins in Florida, and will look to close out the series tonight on home ice.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment says it will continue hosting its outdoor viewing parties for fans at downtown Maple Leaf Square, outside Scotiabank Arena, for tonight’s game. MLSE is advising fans to register for a free mobile pass in the Maple Leafs mobile app to be admitted to the tailgate party at the square.

Gates to the event at the square open two hours before 7 p.m. puck drop and close by the end of second intermission.

Toronto police say there will be a visible police presence in the area surrounding Scotiabank Arena to ensure public safety and minimize disruption.

The force says there will also be a number of road restrictions in effect at the end of the game to manage pedestrian and car traffic.

MLSE is encouraging fans to use public transit to and from Maple Leaf Square for safety.

Leafs fans are highly anticipating the matchup, hoping for a different outcome for the franchise marked by a long list of recent playoff failures — and without a Stanley Cup since 1967.

Recent iterations of the Maple Leafs have crumbled under the weight of expectations, having lost in seven games to the Lightning in last spring’s first round after leading that series 2-1 and 3-2.

The team is 0-9 in opportunities to eliminate a post-season opponent since 2018, while Tampa hoisted the Cup in 2020 and 2021 before losing to Colorado in last year’s final.

Game 6 of this series will return to Tampa if the Leafs are denied tonight.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 27, 2023.

The Canadian Press