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Lightning begin chase for 3rd straight Stanley Cup

Tampa Bay takes on Toronto in the first-round of Stanley Cup Playoffs
Steven Stamkos
Posted at 3:34 PM, May 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-03 05:14:00-04

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning begin their chase for a third straight Stanley Cup Monday night in Toronto.

The Bolts take on the Maple Leafs in Game 1 of their first-round series and between the Atlantic Division rivals; some of the most skilled players in the NHL will share the ice.

“It should be fun,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "Kucherov, Matthews, Stamkos, Marner, Point, Nealander, Tavares. Then you start going on the backend. These are like the stars of the game. I hope people appreciate that and what these guys are going to do and the war they'll go through.”

Toronto’s Auston Matthews led the NHL in goals (60), and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos is coming off a 33-point month of April. That’s the most by any NHL player in a single month since Mario Lemieux had 34 in December 1995.

But this is playoff hockey and offense takes a backseat to defense.

“We know we are going to have the opportunity to score goals if we play the right way,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “We have all the talent in the world. The defense is going to be the biggest key for us as it's been in the past few years. We have the best goaltender in the world. He'll give us a chance every night.”

The Lightning and Maple Leafs combined for 30 penalties in their last meeting on April 21. Hedman hopes to use that physicality to gain an edge again.

“Yeah, I sure hope so,” Hedman said. “They have some big boys on that team too. That’s what the playoffs are all about.”

“They’re going to be very physical, very competitive,” Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe added. “In a lot of ways, when I look at the playoffs, especially their first round last year, they definitely led the league in skirmishes after the whistle. I expect it to be a very physical, borderline violent series.”

Remarkably, this is the first time Tampa Bay and Toronto have met in the postseason.

“Just rewind the tape to last year at this time when we played Florida,” Cooper said. “It was two cars going 100 mph right at each other. It was who is going to flinch first.”

The Lightning need 16 wins to hoist a third straight Stanley Cup. Should they do so, they would become the first franchise to win three consecutive Cups since the Islanders in the early 1980s.