Toronto Maple Leafs – So Near but So Far 2-1 Lose to Lightning Ends Season

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TORONTO – SPORTS – An overtime loss in Game Six and a 2-1 loss in Game Seven has ended the dreams of the Leaf Nation across the globe.

 Nicholas Paul scored two goals for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 2-1 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday.

Tampa Bay, which forced Game 7 with a 4-3 overtime win in Game 6, will face the Florida Panthers in the second round.

“Growing up going to the Leafs games, even in the warmup they had the chants going, the electricity in this building was nuts, so to come in and work has hard as we did, there was no doubt in our game,” said Paul, who is from Mississauga, Ontario, about 30 minutes west of Toronto. “We stuck together as a team and everyone brought their A-game, blocking shots, being detailed, being hard on pucks, and winning their battles, and to pull one out in a building like this, especially being here with family in the stands, it was a big one.”

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 30 saves for the Lightning, who are the No. 3 seed from the Atlantic Division.

Tampa Bay played most of the game without forward Brayden Point, who fell awkwardly into the boards at 17:11 of the first period before heading to the locker room favoring his right leg. Point returned for one shift in the second period but did not play again, although he remained on the bench for the duration of the game.

“That was as evenly matched a series as you’re going to see,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Adversity rears its head in so many different ways, and sometimes it can, an urgency that’s already there, it kicks something into gear. The Leafs had a good start against us, we had to weather the storm, but when Point got hurt it seemed to lock the entire team in, and I don’t think we looked back after that.”