Morgan Rielly has had a lot of tough times as the longest-serving member of the Maple Leafs.
The veteran defenseman – and his Toronto teammates – showed plenty of fighting power and did just enough on a night when they were comfortably second.
Drafted by the Leafs fifth overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Rielly fired a sideboard shot that floated past the right ear of Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevsky after Ryan O’Reilly won a face-off in the offensive zone.
“A leader for us,” Leafs captain John Tavares said of Rielly. “Competition every day. There is no change in his approach, his personality, his mood, no matter how things go.
“Whether it’s with himself or with the team, he continues to be humble, hardworking, highly motivated and gives his all.”
WATCH | Rielly lifts the Maple Leafs over Lightning in OT:
O’Reilly, with a goal late in regulation that forced OT to go along with two assists, Auston Matthews and Noel Acciari scored in regulation time for Toronto. Mitch Marner added two assists.
The Leafs, who have failed to win a postseason series since 2004 and have endured a series of recent playoff disappointments with their talented core led by Matthews, Marner and Tavares, have regained the advantage of the home ice with dogged determination against a battle-tested championship. -caliber opponent.
“We definitely folded here tonight, but we didn’t break,” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “The Tampa Bay Lightning played an incredible hockey game.”
“We really enjoyed our game,” said Tampa head coach Jon Cooper, whose team beat Toronto in a series that went the distance at the same stage of last spring’s playoffs. “Two very good hockey teams there.
“We had plenty of chances.
Game 4 of the best-of-seven match takes place Monday at Amalie Arena.
The teams traded blowout wins to open the series – the Lightning beat the Leafs 7-3 in Game 1 before Toronto responded with an equally emphatic 7-2 triumph in Game 2 to set the stage for a hotly contested affair.
Tied 2-2 after the first 20 minutes on Saturday, Raddysh scored his first career playoff goal at 13:34 of the second. The defender took a point pass and rolled over the boards and around Samsonov’s net – fending off both Matthew Knies and Jake McCabe in the process – before shooting upstairs.
Tampa, who tipped the ice heavily earlier in the period on an under-sieged Samsonov, appeared to go up two on a power play on an odd streak where the puck appeared in front, but officials ruled the Toronto goaltender had him frozen before Brayden Point pushed him home.
“I was shocked,” Cooper said of the call.
Point is afraid of injury
Injured in Game 7 of last year’s series, Point left later in the period after facing Rielly and crashing into the boards.
The 51-goal Tampa man tried to get to his feet, but collapsed on the ice before heading to the locker room as players on both sides dropped the gloves, including a chaotic fight between Matthews – his first in the NHL – and Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Point eventually returned to action after receiving treatment.
“I thought the game was clean,” Rielly said. “[Point] going hard, and I understand his teammates are frustrated by that.”
Toronto, which lost Game 6 in overtime at the same building last spring, had a two-minute power play when the dust settled but was unable to capitalize with Matthews, Rielly and O’Reilly all in the surface.
Keefe said his team deserved a 5-3 advantage on the shenanigans.
“Classic example of a veteran, championship team like Tampa Bay manipulating officials and taking advantage of a situation,” he said. “They know we’re already on the power play…so it’s free for everyone, they can do whatever they want.”
Samsonov, meanwhile, kept his side in the game with a big save on Nick Paul halfway through the period.
“He held on,” Keefe said. “Had his best hockey when it was most critical where we just couldn’t afford to give up the next goal.
Tampa’s Matthews, Stamkos, O’Reilly and Nikita Kucherov all missed nearly nine minutes of action due to major fights and a long stretch without a whistle.
O’Reilly got Toronto even with exactly a minute left in regulation time and Samsonov on the bench for an extra forward with his second of the series from the tight to force OT after William Nylander threw the puck at Vasilevskiy.
RYAN O’REILLY TIED THIS HOCKEY GAME 🍁
WE’RE GOING TO ANOTHER OT! #StanleyCup
🇺🇸: @NHL_On_TNT ➡️ https://t.co/oaJG9t1U2v #NHLonTNT
🇨🇦: @Sportsnet ➡️ https://t.co/c0FJF22IZL < a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NHLonSN?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NHLonSN pic.twitter.com/vypdnBxxlX
“It’s a great feeling,” said O’Reilly, the 2019 Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP.
“It wasn’t the best game for us, but we stuck with it until the end.”
Samsonov made some huge saves early in the extra period that were mostly one-sided, including one on a great individual effort from Kucherov before Rielly won it.
“Phenomenal all evening,” Tavares said of his keeper. “He’s the backbone.”
The Leafs opened the scoring 3:24 from first when Acciari scored before Tampa – which won the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021, and also made the finals last spring – replied 1:26 later when Cirelli passed Samsonov.
IT’S COOKIE TIME!! 🍪⏰ pic.twitter.com/lPOwqUsBPm
Toronto regained the lead at 11:10 when Matthews tipped a Marner one-timer past Vasilevskiy.
“Over the last few years we’ve lost this game a number of times,” Keefe said.
“The guys stuck with it and made sure we got the win.”
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