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More Game 7 heartache for Maple Leafs as Nick Paul powers Lightning

More Game 7 heartache for Maple Leafs as Nick Paul powers Lightning

TORONTO, ON- MAY 14 - Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Nicholas Paul (20) celebrates after scoring his second of the night as the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Tampa Bay Lightning in game seven of their first round NHL playoff series at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. May 14, 2022. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Toronto Star via Getty Images

During the first Game 7 on Saturday, Max Domi emerged as an unexpected multiple goal-scorer for the Hurricanes. Nick Paul pulled off similar heroics for the Lightning in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs.

Paul scored both of the Lightning’s goals in Game 7. That would end up being all that Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Bolts needed, ending another Maple Leafs season in First Round heartbreak.

In many ways, this one felt different for Toronto. This one was close. You need to nitpick to beef about efforts from stars like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and John Tavares.

The look may not be the same. But the result basically was. (Even most of those brutal Buds letdowns came in Game 7-type situations.)

As close as it was to ending, the Lightning’s three-peat bid lives on, and we’ll see another “Battle of Florida” as the Panthers will be their opponent.

Nick Paul the difference-maker for Lightning over Maple Leafs in Game 7

Being that Nick Paul’s spent his career with the Senators before being traded to the Lightning, it’s not that shocking that he scored his first career playoff goal in Game 7. Either way, it’s impressive that he found the net twice.

Actually, if you count a hard collision with Jack Campbell, Nick Paul “found it” three times.

Scary-looking injury for Brayden Point

In a scary moment, Brayden Point fell awkwardly into the boards, suffering an unclear lower-body injury. It’s been noted that Point underwent hip surgery somewhat recently. It could be any number of things, but either way, Point couldn’t put much weight on his injured leg.

Point tried to return to Game 7, but his mobility was clearly too hindered.

Could the wear-and-tear of repeat Stanley Cup runs be slowing Tampa Bay down? Darren Dreger also wondered if Nikita Kucherov is fully healthy.

While players like Carter Verhaeghe are banged up (he was a game-time decision in Game 6), it feels like the Panthers will have rest, injury, and “freshness” advantages over the Lightning. That doesn’t mean it will be an easy ride, though. But the stage is set reasonably well for the Cats to get revenge vs. the Bolts.

Disallowed Tavares goal (Holl interference) creates some Game 7 controversy

No doubt, one of the lingering controversies of Maple Leafs - Lightning Game 7 was a disallowed goal. It seemed like John Tavares scored an impressive goal, but it was overturned thanks to a “pick” by Justin Holl on Anthony Cirelli.

Personally, this indeed looked like interference (again, a pick). But Maple Leafs fans were upset, either by the call happening, or by officials arguably missing comparable Lightning infractions. (Close to that Holl call/Tavares disallowed goal, William Nylander should’ve drawn a penalty while being slowed on a semi-breakaway opportunity.)

With any debate like this, it’s easy to get swept up in different details. You can cherry-pick any number of calls in a Game 7, or other parts of a series. That said, it can be frustrating if it feels like the level of officiating changes from game to game, or even period to period.

You know there’s some disdain around a decision when an official’s name starts trending on Twitter.

Either way, the goal did not count.

A championship-level effort

Ultimately, the Lightning limited the Maple Leafs’ chances. Sometimes that meant surviving, especially during Toronto’s dangerous third period power play.

Overall, though, Tampa Bay was able to slow Toronto’s weapons, and score enough to win.

Personally, the Maple Leafs lost to the Lightning in a very close series that went to Game 7. This doesn’t scream “burn it all down.”

However management reacts to another First Round exit, it remains once again what the Toronto Maple Leafs must stomach.