Maple Leafs stick to business in Game 3 win over Lightning

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TAMPA — Three-round t-shirts are popular in this city, but four wins is the number the Maple Leafs need to keep in mind if they really want to dress for success.

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The Leafs not only entered the home of two-time Stanley Cup champions in a new playoff setting, they took an unlikely 3-0 lead in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series and, just as vitally, resisted the Bolts. inevitable comeback in a tight finish before two empty nets from Ikya Mikheyev settled a 5-2 decision.

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The Leafs take a 2-1 Game 4 lead here Sunday night.

From stopping Jack Campbell from an open Brayden Point in the opening quarter to crossing a Steven Stamkos one-timer on a third-period power play that would have tied it, the goaltender from goal topped a list of post-game accolades Sheldon Keefe gave, which included 5-on-5 play, special teams and depth scoring.

“It shows we were prepared, guys were focused tonight,” said the coach of a team that went out of its element trying to brutalize the Lightning in a Game 2 loss on Wednesday. “We bent a bit, we didn’t break.

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“This time of year you need guys to step up and make plays too.”

In addition to Campbell’s 32 saves, defender Ilya Lyubushkin came out of the penalty box to make an unexpected assist, joining a 3-on-1 run, freezing Andrei Vasilevskiy, faking a pass to Pierre Engvall, then finding the trailer Colin Blackwell for his first NHL playoff goal.

“Coming into this (Amalie Arena), it’s tough. Their fans are in it, their fans are still abuzz,” Campbell said. the shots, making it difficult to get into the net, were huge.

Again focusing on speed, skill and a scrappy defense, the Leafs built the three-goal advantage on goals from Morgan Rielly on the power play – after the big save on Point – then Blackwell, then David Kampf in second period. The Leafs 13-0 when Kampf scored this year.

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No one expected the 115-point Leafs to leave after Game 2, in which they scored the final two goals in a 5-3 loss, but the lead was to be expected. Friday is not sure. Indeed, they had to hang on for life as Tampa pressed in the final two minutes with Vasilevskiy fired before Mikheyev’s two goals, his first two in the playoffs.

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In a noisy arena with just a trickle from the normal contingent of Toronto fans, the Bolts went for the jugular on the opening faceoff, with Lyubushkin knocking down the puck and Point coming out of the slot. But Campbell came out quickly to block it, as he did on the first mistakes of a few teammates.

His best work, however, came on a late penalty from Jake Muzzin, stretching right to left to get his body on Stamkos at one point.

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In the second period, after a 25-second two-man advantage for the Leafs went to naught, Kampf converted a turnover into another odd run and beat Vasilevskiy for the second time in this series.

Ross Colton rattled Campbell on the man advantage with Justin Holl in the second to make it 3-1 and Ondrej Palat netted a high wrist at 5:43 of the third period.

For the most part, the teams avoided any nonsense after the whistles, each absorbing hard lessons. A key move in bringing the Leafs back to that hockey-first mentality was having Jason Spezza in the lineup. The veteran of 93 postseason games in addition to 1,248 in the regular season was called up as Keefe recalibrated his decision to match the Bolts’ heavy roster with his own fourth-line armor.

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Spezza, 38, replaced Wayne Simmonds, who took a few ill-advised penalties in Game 2, while Keefe also opted to leave Kyle Clifford after he was suspended one game for a late hit in Game 1 of the series. Winger Kase was not at morning training at Amalie Arena for what was said to be a personal issue but returned to his place with John Tavares and William Nylander.

The series was tied 1-1 to return to a spot where the Lightning had a 50-38 playoff record since 2004.

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The officials’ no-nonsense approach to bullying tactics from both teams, and minor stick fouls called in tight fashion so far, have made overtly rough play a risk, especially with both teams having powerful plays. power.

Keefe has beefed up the defence, ditching Timothy Liljegren for the tougher Holl, who also has more shorthanded credentials. In removing Liljegren, the coach noted that his inexperience had shown up a few times in this intense series and that Toronto no longer controlled defensive matchups as a team on the road.

Spezza, one of three Leafs along with Simmonds and Mark Giordano to go 1,000 regular season games without a Stanley Cup, has been like a caged tiger waiting for that chance.

“It’s the best time to play hockey. I can bring excitement, balance and also help the power play (on the second unit),” he said.

lhornby@postmedia.com

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