Auston Matthews scored twice as part of a three-point night and Jack Campbell made 23 saves to register the second playoff shutout of his career as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-0 in Game 1 of their first-round series Monday.
Mitch Marner snapped a long post-season goal drought to go along with two assists, while Jake Muzzin and David Kampf, on a short-handed breakaway, also scored for Toronto, which killed off five Lightning power plays – including an early five-minute major – inside an electric Scotiabank Arena.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 29 shots for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, who will look to rebound in Game 2 on Wednesday.
Teams that take the opener of a best-of-seven series hold an all-time record of 499-228 (. 686), including a 9-6 mark last season.
Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe predicted a “borderline violent” series, and that’s exactly what happened seven minutes into the first period when Leafs winger Kyle Clifford pasted Tampa’s Ross Colton from behind into the boards to earn a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
Having already killed off one minor penalty, Toronto had the better chances down a man with Clifford taking an early shower, including an Alexander Kerfoot shot off the post on a 2-on-1.
The Leafs couldn’t connect on two subsequent power plays, but pushed ahead with 1:41 left in the period when Muzzin’s point shot through a screen beat Vasilevskiy to nearly blow the roof off Scotiabank Arena.
William Nylander almost made it 2-0 late in the period on a breakaway after blocking a shot, but couldn’t solve Vasilevskiy through the five-hole.
The Leafs called a timeout ahead of a 5-on-3 power play in second and then took just 11 seconds to connect with five forwards on the ice when Marner fed Matthews for the 60-goal man to blast a one-timer shortside on Vasilevskiy.
The rabid crowd responded with chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” for Matthews, who won his second straight Maurice (Rocket) Richard Trophy.
Tampa got its fourth man advantage later in the period, but Kampf beat Victor Hedman to a loose puck as Toronto once again showed its superior speed before beating Vasilevskiy to make it 3-0 at 9:27.
Campbell had to be sharp at the other end on another Lightning power play when he made a nice blocker stop on Brayden Point off a Nikita Kucherov feed. Steven Stamkos then heeled a one-timer with the Toronto goaltender at his mercy, which prompted jeers for the Tampa captain and Markham, Ont., native.
The Leafs put things to bed at 16:39 when Marner snapped his long playoff goal drought. The winger took a slick pass from Morgan Rielly off the rush and outwaited Vasilevskiy to score in the post-season for the first time since April 11, 2019 – a stretch of 18 games.
The home side kept its foot on the gas to start the third to keep the battle-tested champs on their heels, with Matthews making it 5-0 when Vasilevskiy misplayed the puck behind his net to give the game’s best goal-scorer his second at 8:16.
The game took another violent turn midway through the period with multiple fights on one shift. Rielly cut Lightning defenceman Jan Rutta in one skirmish, while Tampa’s Pat Maroon and Corey Perry, and Toronto’s Wayne Simmonds and Ilya Lyubushkin were also sent to the locker rooms with misconducts.
The Leafs, who have lost seven straight post-season series and haven’t advanced to the second round since 2004, suffered a crushing seven-game loss last spring when the Montreal Canadiens stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to down Toronto, kick-starting a run that would end with a loss to the Tampa in the final.
The Lightning, meanwhile, have won eight straight series since a stunning sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2019 following a 128-point campaign and the franchise’s first Presidents’ Trophy.
The Leafs, who hit the ice for Game 1 on the 55-year anniversary of the franchise’s last Stanley Cup, had winger Ondrej Kase in the lineup after he missed the last 20 regular-season games with a concussion. Top-line winger Michael Bunting sat out a fourth straight contest with an undisclosed injury.
Notes: Toronto forward Jason Spezza was a healthy scratch for Toronto. … Blue-liner Zach Bogosian sat out for the Lightning. … Games 3 and 4 go Friday and Sunday in Tampa.