Despite a terrible start in Game 5 of their series against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs are just one win away from accomplishing a feat they’ve been trying to repeat for a long time. .

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Up 3-2 against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, the Queen City team could eliminate their rivals in Game 6 on Thursday at Amalie Arena. If she does, she will reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the spring of 2004. At the time, the Leafs led by the late Pat Quinn had veterans Mats Sundin, Joe Nieuwendyk, Darcy Tucker, Gary Roberts and Ed Belfour, among others.

This time, there is the experience of John Tavares, the team captain, but also the youth and strength of Auston Matthews, winner of the Maurice-Richard trophy this season with his 60 goals. The American is successful with seven points, but he takes nothing for granted, especially since his team had the Montreal Canadiens in the cables last year; ahead 3-1 in the first round, Toronto had escaped the last three meetings to suffer elimination.

“It’s a big win for us, but there’s still work to do,” he admitted in a post-match press briefing. We came from behind by closing a two-goal deficit [after one period], we never lost hope and we competed. On the other hand, as I said, the job is not completed.

Experienced team

Indeed, the Lightning knows how to win and swears not to have said its last word. Aware of the changes to be made, head instructor Jon Cooper expects to see his men bounce back in front of their supporters.

“We let this game slip away and it’s our fault. However, we did not let the series slip through our fingers, he said, as reported by the daily “Toronto Star”. There were a lot of penalties. […] I’ve never seen anything like it, but please don’t use that as an excuse. Special teams are a big chunk of a game and you have to win in that type of situation. There, we didn’t. We gave them the win.”

Granted, Tampa Bay has taken five or more penalties in every game of the series so far. The players of the Florida team respect their opponents, nevertheless believing that they will have to be less generous towards them.

“There are two formidable offensives here. When you give the wrong guys chances, the puck usually ends up in your net. But we will regroup. We have a club that has already been there, ”promised defender Victor Hedman.