Finally it happened: Toronto Maple Leafs end 19 year old playoff drought

Toronto has moved on to the second round of the NHL playoffs after finally casting out its playoff demons.

The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 and won their series 4-2 to advance in the postseason for the first time in over 20 years. Tavares scored at 4:36 of overtime and Ilya Samsonov made 31 saves for the Leafs.

The Leafs captain, who joined Toronto in 2018 after leaving the New York Islanders in free agency, flung a puck in front of the net that ricocheted off Lightning defenseman Darren Raddysh’s skate and went in for his fourth goal of the series, sending Toronto teammates running off the bench in joy.

Under close scrutiny, the emotions ran the gamut for a team that hasn’t seen playoff victory in a generation.

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With little over six minutes left in the second period, Auston Matthews scored his fifth goal of the series to break the scoreless tie.

Just over four minutes into the third period, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos pounced on a rebound to even the score and force overtime.

Toronto was outshot 32–22 by Tampa Bay on the night, but Ilya Samsonov made a good 31 saves to keep the Leafs in the game.

Tonight, the Maple Leafs killed a few dragons. They had won seven straight series over the 19 years between defeats, as well as 11 straight postseason games where they had the opportunity to wrap up a series. On Saturday, all of those streaks were eventually broken.

The winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers will be the Leafs’ second-round opponent – yep, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ second-round opponent. If they join the Panthers, they will benefit from playing on home ice. Boston handed Toronto three of those Game 7 losses during the drought, so if it’s the Bruins, they’ll have an opportunity to slay another dragon.

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