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Down 3-2 in their first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Lightning face elimination entering Thursday’s Game 6 in Tampa Bay.
This is go big or go home for the Lightning, and that’s the attitude forward Patrick Maroon displayed when he spoke on Wednesday about the series’ officiating. The gritty forward felt the need to say something following Game 5 of the series that saw 11 power-play opportunities between the two teams and brought the series total to 52 power-play chances through five games.
“It feels like preseason,” Maroon said about the officiating standard being enforced.
— Joshua Clipperton (@JClipperton_CP) May 11, 2022
The series has featured a plethora of penalty minutes, as only the Maple Leafs' 5-3 win in Game 3 saw fewer than 11 penalties called, when a total of eight power plays were handed out.
Maroon himself has racked up 14 penalty minutes, along with one goal, in five games. The Lightning will hope he and the rest of the team will manage to stay out of the penalty box with their season on the line.
Tampa Bay has not lost back-to-back playoff games since being swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the 2019 playoffs. The Lightning last faced elimination in Game 7 of the 2021 semifinals against the New York Islanders, and won 1-0.
While the Bolts have had past success in elimination games, the Maple Leafs haven’t advanced past the first round since 2004. History has shown that Toronto is prone to elimination-game collapses. It had a 3-2 series lead on the Boston Bruins in the 2019 Eastern Conference first round before losing two straight. The Leafs then held a 3-1 series lead on the Montreal Canadiens in the first round last season before losing the next three.
Maroon expects Toronto to come in with a sense of urgency in Tampa.
“They are desperate too, they want to win too,” Maroon said. “One team is trying to end the series and one is trying to keep the series going. It’s going to be two very good teams going head-to-head and both want the same thing at the end of the day: a win.”
Here’s hoping the officials won’t feel too eager to blow the whistles.
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