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The defending Stanley Cup champions kept their hopes of three-peat alive after defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime to force Game 7 but several controversial officiating calls that could have arguably impacted the outcome of Thursday night’s game left several Leafs’ players with little to say.
The Leafs were close to closing out the series against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 3-2 lead halfway through the third period when officials called a high-sticking penalty against David Kampf.
A replay of the incident showed Kampf’s stick catching just underneath the shoulder pad of Lightning defenseman Callan Foote. Just 15 seconds into the power play, Toronto forward Alex Kerfoot got the same call. Nikita Kucherov capitalized on the opportunity to force overtime and Brayden Point scored the game-winner to keep Tampa Bay alive.
Lightning players celebrate a goal in the third period during the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Toronto Maple Leafs on May 12, 2022, in Tampa, Florida. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
During the post-game pressers, Leafs’ players declined to comment on the officiating.
“We don’t have any comments about it,” John Tavares said, via ESPN. “[It was] unfortunate the way it went in the third period, but I thought we regrouped well.”
Auston Matthews echoed that sentiment, declining to comment multiple times.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” he said before repeating himself. “I’m not going to comment on that. What’s in the past is in the past. It’s about the next game.”
Auston Matthews of the Maple Leafs looks on against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scotiabank Arena on May 10, 2022, in Toronto. (Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)
But Lightning coach Jon Cooper seemed to see things differently.
“When a team goes down 5-on-3 in the third period, they have to earn their penalties. They earned them both. We took advantage,” he told reporters.
Lightning center Brayden Point celebrates after scoring during sudden-death overtime Thursday, May 12, 2022, in Tampa, Florida. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
The Maple Leafs, who’ve been eliminated in the first round each of the past five seasons, are 0-for-their-last-8 in close-out games as they chase their first postseason series win since 2004.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.