Maple Leafs' special teams dominate in Game 1 rout of Lightning

·2-min read
The Maple Leafs put on a clinic in Game 1 against the Lightning. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Maple Leafs put on a clinic in Game 1 against the Lightning. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

Special teams came to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1.

Behind a rousing performance from their assemblage of penalty killers and a timely and opportunistic strike on the power play from Auston Matthews, the Maple Leafs drew first blood in their best-of-seven series versus the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 5-0 victory Monday night at Scotiabank Arena.

David Kampf scored a memorable shorthanded marker to underscore his brilliant performance, while the other half of the top penalty-killing tandem, Mitch Marner, broke a lengthy postseason scoring drought and poured in a game-high three points in what was a defensive masterpiece from the favoured Maple Leafs.

Matthews added a second goal before the game was through, while Jack Campbell secured the shutout win with 24 saves.

Whistles wound up being the story of the game, and, at least for one night, a game contested largely outside the normal conditions favoured Toronto, not the two-time defending champion Lightning. There was a seemingly endless run on penalties — some ticky-tack, and others well-earned — including an early five-minute major and game misconduct assessed to Kyle Clifford for a reckless run at Ross Colton.

It was a horrible decision, and one that not only left the Leafs severely disadvantaged at a crucial time, but kept the likes of Matthews, William Nylander and John Tavares on the bench. But after five minutes of sensational work on the penalty kill, the outcome of Clifford's awful decision wound up propelling the Leafs — and their crowd — forward.

Toronto took the lead before the first period was through on Jake Muzzin's seeing-eye shot, then the offence poured it on in the second, scoring in all three conditions. Matthews scored on a five-on-three try, Kampf extended the lead shorthanded, and Marner quieted the noise on the outside before it could start with an even-strength tally and his first goal in the playoffs since 2019.

Matthews added his second and Toronto's fifth on a misplay from Andrei Vasilevskiy before the midway mark of the third.

It was the sort of game that neither the Leafs or Lightning were necessarily preparing for, given the uneven conditions. But Toronto was first to perform under them and make the required adjustments, earning a series lead with a decisive victory on home ice.

Game 2 runs Wednesday in Toronto.

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