The Lightning finds themselves in a position that they did envision themselves in at the start of the series.
The Lightning needs a win tonight against Toronto, or the season will be over.
In-game six, the Lightning defeated the Maple Leafs 4-3 in overtime on A Braydon Point goal to force a game seven in Toronto.
The pressure is on Toronto. They have not advanced past the first-round series since 2004. the Leafs are also 0-9 in series-clinching games.
As in the previous five games in the series, the Lightning had spurts of great play, and also those plays where you wonder if this was the same team that we saw a few minutes earlier.
The Lightning has not yet put together a full 60 minutes. They have had flashes of that championship form but have also looked at times like this is their first time playing together.
The Maple Leafs dominated play in overtime, but the Lightning made more plays than Toronto to earn the overtime win.
Andrei Vasilevskiy looked like the Vasi of playoffs past. He was sharp and stopped a lot of Toronto point-blank chances in that OT.
Victor Hedman had his best game of the series and led the Lightning with over 28 minutes of playing time.
Cal Foote continues to improve and is now someone Jon Cooper can put out there and not worry if he is up to the challenge.
If the Lightning can carry over the momentum they created in the last few minutes of that overtime period into game seven on Saturday, the Bolts have an excellent chance of winning the series.
Yes, the Maple Leaf’s playoff record has been awful this century. But Jon Cooper doesn’t want any players thinking that this Toronto will fold up and go away.
“Their history is not going to win us a game,” Jon Cooper said. “Whatever’s happened in the past, that’s really got no bearing on us. It does in their locker room, but we have to look back on what we’ve done in these situations.”
Cooper also added, “I don’t think we can look back at what’s happened in Toronto in the past and think, Oh, we got this. We’d be sorely mistaken if that’s the attitude we took.”
In last year’s ECF, the Lightning last played a game seven against the New York Islanders, ending in a 1-0 Lightning win.
Saturday night’s game seven may not be the high offensive game we are used to seeing from these two teams. One goal can be the difference-maker. No team wants to be that team that will make that critical mistake that could cost their team the win.
Steven Stamkos talked about the effort it will take to win an elimination game. “We talked about sacrificing. We talked about doing the right things out there. It’s tough. Your body’s going through a lot, especially in an elimination game where our backs are against the wall and guys are trying to leave it all on the ice. So I thought we did that.”
And they will need to do it again one more time to continue their quest for a third Stanley Cup.
The Lightning has the championship pedigree. Been there, done that. Unlike Toronto, which has won nothing since 1967.
Andrei Vasilevskiy has been outstanding in his last five series-clinching games.
The Lightning will win this game seven and advance to the second round to face the Florida Panthers.