Toronto Maple Leafs great Borje Salming diagnosed with ALS

Former Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Borje Salming has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, the team announced Wednesday.

Salming, who played 16 seasons with the Leafs (1973-1989) and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996, said in a statement that he recognizes that there is no cure for the disease but says there are treatments available to slow the progression.

“I do not know how the days ahead will be, but I understand that there will be challenges greater than anything I have ever faced,” Salming said in a statement. “I also recognize that there is no cure but there are numerous worldwide trials going on and there will be a cure one day.

“Since I started playing ice hockey as a little kid in Kiruna, and throughout my career, I have given it my all. And I will continue to do so.”

ALS is progressive nervous system disease that leads to paralysis, the inability to swallow, respiratory failure and finally death, usually in two to five years from the onset of symptoms.

Salming, 71, is receiving treatment in his native Sweden, where there are more than 800 patients living with ALS.

Salming, left, was one of the first wave of Europeans to play in the NHL. (The Canadian Press/UPC)

“ALS is a devastating disease that not only affects the muscles but can also affect personality and cognitive functions,” said Dr. Caroline Ingre, Salming’s physician.

“In about 70 per cent of diagnoses, the disease starts with symptoms from the spinal cord, which increasingly weakens the patient’s arms and legs, while in about 30 per cent it starts around the mouth and throat, leading to slurred speech and difficulties swallowing,” she said. “These patients also often have an associated emotional impact that manifests itself as uncontrollable laughter or crying.”

Ingre, chief physician within the Neurology Department at the Karolinska University Hospital near Stockholm, said most ALS patients experience difficulty breathing, with symptoms most often appearing first at night. Other typical symptoms include morning headaches, daytime sleepiness, and shortness of breath during the day or when lying flat on the back.

The ALS Society of Canada estimates that 3,000 Canadians live with the disease.

Salming, a pioneering European star, played 1,099 games with the Leafs and ranks fourth among the team’s career scoring leaders with 768 points.

In 1997, he was voted as one of the 100 greatest players in NHL history by panel that included former players, coaches, executives and media members.

Respected captain Bergeron returns to Bruins on 1-year deal loaded with incentives

Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron is coming back for another season.

Almost three months after he left the ice without any certainty he would return, the five-time Selke Trophy winner signed a one-year deal with the Bruins on Monday. It will pay him $2.5 million US, with another possible $2.5 million in incentives.

Bergeron, 36, led the Bruins to the 2011 NHL championship and two other trips to the Stanley Cup final during an 18-year career as the league’s dominant two-way forward. Boston was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Carolina Hurricanes on May 14 and fired head coach Bruce Cassidy three weeks later.

Jim Montgomery was hired to replace Cassidy, and the new coach said at his introductory news conference Bergeron was his first call. Team CEO Charlie Jacobs said Bergeron was expected to return.

“So, fingers crossed,” he said in July.

It worked.

Bergeron has 400 goals and 582 assists — all with the Bruins, who selected him in the second round of the 2003 draft. Since then, he has established himself as one of the most respected players in the game.

When he does leave, the Bruins are expected to retire his No. 37, making him the 12th player so honoured. He is a likely first-ballot inductee for the Hockey Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible.

But now that won’t be until at least 2026.

Bergeron is third in Bruins history with 1,216 regular-season games played, and fourth in goals, assists and points. He is second all-time for the Original Six franchise with 47 playoff goals and 123 points.

14 playoff appearances

Bergeron’s 11 straight seasons as a Selke finalist — including this year — is the longest streak of top three finishes for an NHL award, breaking Wayne Gretzky’s record of 10 years in a row as an MVP finalist. (Gretzky won the Hart Trophy nine times).

Bergeron played 2021-22 without a future contract for the first time in his career, scoring 25 goals with 40 assists and helping the Bruins reach the playoffs for the 14th time in his 18 seasons. They were eliminated by the Hurricanes in seven games.

“That’s why this one probably hurts more, the unknown for next year with him,” forward Brad Marchand, the second-longest tenured player on the roster, said after the Game 7 loss.

“He’s done so much for this group and sacrificed so much,” Marchand said. “It would have been nice to make a good run for him. So, it’s disappointing.”

Bergeron was the last Boston player off the ice in Carolina, leading his teammates through the post-series handshake line with the Hurricanes and then remaining on the ice to give each of his teammates a hug.

But he said he hadn’t decided about his future.

“It’s tough when it ends like that,” Bergeron said after the game. “It stings. It’s not the feeling that you want. But that being said, we did it together.”

He’s the backbone of our team. … So, yeah, we want him to come back.— Brad Marchand on fellow Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron after playoff exit in May

Bergeron and Marchand are the only players from the 2011 Stanley Cup championship team left on the Bruins roster. Longtime captain Zdeno Chara left as a free agent in 2020, David Krejci opted to play at home in the Czech Republic last summer and goalie Tuukka Rask abandoned his comeback from hip surgery in the middle of this season.

The Bruins have 25-year-old David Pastrnak on offence, 24-year-old Charlie McAvoy on defence and 22-year-old Jeremy Swayman in net. Hampus Lindholm, 28, was acquired midseason to shore up the defence, and Marchand is still one of the league’s most dangerous scorers at 33.

But losing Bergeron would have been the end of the most successful era in the team’s history since the Big, Bad Bruins of Hall of Famers Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Gerry Cheevers and John Bucyk.

“He’s the backbone of our team. He’s obviously the biggest part of our team,” Marchand said after the playoff exit in May. “So, yeah, we want him to come back. Whatever happens, he’s earned the right to make whatever decision he wants and take whatever time that he needs.”

Calgary is a 'great fit' for new Flame Huberdeau following richest contract in franchise history

After a tumultuous start to the off-season, the Calgary Flames announced some good news late Thursday night with the signing of newly acquired left-winger Jonathan Huberdeau to an eight-year, $84 million contract extension.

“They’re the team that traded for me, and you want to play for a team that wants you,” said Huberdeau on Friday morning. “I’m excited to be a Flame for the next nine years. That was my goal, right from the get-go, and we got it done.”

Last season, Calgary was 50-21-11 to take top spot in the Pacific Division and post the franchise’s second-best regular season in five decades. But after being knocked out in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Edmonton Oilers, the bad news continued into the off-season with the departure of star forward Johnny Gaudreau in free agency, who signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Things took another bad turn when star right-winger Matthew Tkachuk informed the team that he would not sign an extension, putting him in a position to leave as an unrestricted free agent at the end of the upcoming season.

Not about to risk losing two-thirds of what was one of the NHL’s top lines last season, without getting something in return, Flames general manager Brad Treliving pulled the trigger July 22 on a blockbuster sign-and-trade deal with Florida that sent Tkachuk — with an eight-year, $76-million US deal agreed to — and a fourth-round pick to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Huberdeau, defenceman MacKenzie Weegar, prospect Cole Schwindt, and a first-round pick.

Less than two weeks later, Huberdeau is no longer a year away from free agency, also, after agreeing to the biggest deal in Flames’ franchise history.

“I only had one year left and I was like, you know what, I want a commitment and I want to turn the page for good and focus on the new team,” Huberdeau said. “I thought it was a great fit for me, great city to play in, that’s why I wanted to get it done.”

The signing comes just a few days after Treliving flew to Montreal to meet Huberdeau in person over dinner, a gesture that was appreciated and influential on the 29-year-old’s decision.

“He didn’t have to do that, we could have had a Zoom or something like that, but I think in person, that’s how you get to know someone better and I appreciated him taking the time to come and see me from Calgary, it’s not a short flight,” said Huberdeau. “We just had a great conversation, and he flew back right after. That made me think that they really care about me and they want me to stay here.”

Hefty pay-raise

For Huberdeau, who will be 30 when the contract kicks in, the $10.5-million annual average value is a hefty raise from his current six-year deal that pays him $5.9-million annually. It also concludes a wild stretch for Huberdeau, who had been part of the Panthers organization for 11 years after being selected third overall in the 2011 NHL Draft.

“Emotionally, it’s been a roller-coaster for the past few weeks,” Huberdeau admitted. “Obviously, the shock of the trade, I was a little down, but at the end of the day, you want to look forward in life and that’s what I told myself and my family. It was important to turn the page.”

In Calgary, Huberdeau will continue to pursue post-season success, which has mostly eluded him in his pro career so far. In his 10 years with the Panthers, he only made the post-season three times and last year’s second-round exit was the only trip beyond the first round.

It will also be the first time the Montreal native will be playing in a Canadian market since 2012 when he wrapped up his junior hockey career with the Saint John Sea Dogs.

He says his mom and dad can’t wait to head out west and check out his new city.

“They were really excited,” Huberdeau said about his parents, who will be on hand at the Scotiabank Saddledome when Calgary opens the season on Oct. 13 against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. “It’s a big chapter in my life and they’re going to follow me anywhere I go, but obviously they’re going to be there. They’ve already booked their flights.”

Coming off a career-best 115-point season in which Huberdeau tied Gaudreau for second in league scoring, the six-foot-one forward is eager to get back at it.

“Just excited to get going,” he said. “Now that the business side is out of it, it’s go win some games.”

Flames sign newly-acquired star Huberdeau to 8-year, $84 million US extension

Newly-acquired forward Jonathan Huberdeau has agreed to an eight-year, $84 million US extension with the Calgary Flames Thursday.

The 29-year-old was a part of the July 22 deal that sent Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers.

Calgary had also acquired MacKenzie Weegar, Cole Schwindt and a conditional 2025 first-round pick in the trade.

Huberdeau finished last season with 30 goals and 85 assists for 115 points. His point total had him tied for second in the NHL, while his 85 assists were a league best.

The Saint-Jerome, Que., native has spent his entire 10-year career with the Panthers after being drafted third overall in the 2011 draft.

He has recorded 198 goals and 415 assists for 613 points over the course of 671 career games.

Senators sign forward Mathieu Joseph to 4-year, $11.8M US extension

The Ottawa Senators have agreed to terms with forward Mathieu Joseph on a four-year contract extension worth $11.8 million US on Thursday.

Ottawa acquired Joseph in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for forward Nick Paul in March.

The 25-year-old recorded four goals and eight assists in 11 games with the Senators.

He established career highs of 18 assists and 30 points in 69 total games played last season.

Joseph, of Laval, Que., was drafted 99th overall in the fourth round of the 2015 draft by the Lightning.

In 232 career games, he carries totals of 41 goals and 41 assists.

Robidas joins Canadiens’ coaching staff as assistant

The Montreal Canadiens have named former NHL defenceman Stephane Robidas as an assistant coach on Martin St. Louis’ staff.

The 45-year old Robidas spent last season as head coach of the Magog Cantonniers in the Quebec U18 AAA Development Hockey League

He led the team to a league title and was named a finalist for coach of the year.

Robidas had taken a job as an assistant coach with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Sherbrooke Phoenix last month, prior to accepting the offer from the Canadiens.

Robidas was selected by the Canadiens in the seventh round (164th overall) of the 1995 NHL draft.

He had 57 goals and 201 assists over 937 regular-season games with Montreal, Dallas, Chicago, Anaheim and Toronto.

Robidas joins a rebuilding Canadiens club which finished with a league-worst 22-49-11 record in 2021-22, one season after advancing to the Stanley Cup final.

“We are very lucky to have someone of Stephane’s caliber join our coaching staff,” St. Louis said in a statement. “His recent experience as an NHL player, and his outstanding hockey background, will be excellent assets for the development of our players.”

St. Louis will be heading into his first full season as head coach. He took over as interim head coach on Feb. 9 after Dominique Ducharme was fired and signed a three-year contract on June 1.

Hurricanes re-sign defenceman Ethan Bear

The Carolina Hurricanes have re-signed defenceman Ethan Bear to a one-year, $2.2 million contract.

The team announced the deal Thursday, exactly one year since the Hurricanes acquired Bear in a trade with Edmonton.

Bear had five goals and nine assists in 58 games last season. He struggled to find a rhythm after a bout with COVID-19 in late November and was a healthy scratch for Carolina’s 14 playoff games.

“I’ve never been through something like that,” Bear said in June. “Honestly, for a long time, it’s tough; it’s like you can’t breathe but like you don’t know if you’re out of shape or can’t push yourself to that point because you just simply couldn’t. That was the most challenging part.”

The 25-year-old Bear was a restricted free agent who had filed for arbitration, with a hearing set for Aug. 8.

Carolina has made the playoffs for four straight seasons but lost in a seven-game, second-round series to the New York Rangers in May.

Rangers agree to terms with Kaapo Kakko 

The New York Rangers have agreed to terms with forward Kaapo Kakko on a two-year contract worth $4.2 million.

The deal with the No. 2 pick in the 2019 draft carries an annual salary cap hit of $2.1 million. General manager Chris Drury announced the agreement Thursday.

Kakko played in 43 games last season, recording seven goals and 11 assists with a plus-nine rating. The 21-year-old Finn also had two goals and three assists in 19 games during the Rangers’ unexpected run to the Eastern Conference final.

Kakko has skated in 157 career NHL games, putting up 26 goals and 32 assists. His best season was his rookie year in 2019-20, when he had 10 goals and 13 assists in 66 games.

Sharks hire former Rangers coach David Quinn as new bench boss

The San Jose Sharks have hired former New York Rangers coach David Quinn as their new head coach.

The Sharks announced Tuesday that Quinn would replace the fired Bob Boughner as the Sharks overhaul their management and coaching team.

“His previous NHL head coaching experience is valuable to us and he implements a system that will fit with our philosophy of being a hard team to play against,” general manager Mike Grier said in a statement. “We are extremely happy to have him a part of this organization.”

The 55-year-old Quinn coached the Rangers for three seasons from 2018-21, posting a 96-87-25 record. New York never made it as far as the conference quarter-finals in Quinn’s three seasons, missing the playoffs in 2019 and ’21 and losing in the qualifying round in the COVID bubble in 2020.

Quinn had previously been head coach for five seasons in college at Boston University. He also coached the U.S. Olympic team to a fifth-place finish in Beijing last February.

The Sharks have undergone an organizational overhaul after missing the playoffs for a third straight season for the first time in franchise history.

Long-time general manager Doug Wilson stepped down for medical reasons in April and Boughner was fired along with three assistants in late June after posting a 67-85-23 record in two-plus seasons at the helm.

San Jose hired Grier as general manager earlier in July and Grier has already made significant changes in the front office and now has hired a new coach in hopes of turning the Sharks’ fortunes around.

The Sharks traded away star defenceman Brent Burns earlier this month and have added several veterans like forwards Oskar Lindblom, Luke Kunin, Nico Sturm and Steven Lorentz, and defencemen Markus Nutivaara and Matt Benning in hopes of adding more depth to the roster.

Quinn takes over a roster that struggled to score last season but does have a few key pieces in place, including forwards Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture and Timo Meier, and defenceman Erik Karlsson.

Oilers blank Kings to prevail in decisive Game 7, advance to 2nd round

Connor McDavid had a goal and an assist as the Edmonton Oilers advanced through to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 2-0 Game 7 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

Cody Ceci also scored and Mike Smith made 28 saves for his second shutout of the playoffs for the Oilers, who last won a Game 7 in1998 and celebrated their first playoff series win since 2017.

Jonathan Quick made 39 saves in a losing effort for the Kings, who have not won a playoff series since they won their second Stanley Cup in 2014, also the last year they won a series in a Game 7.

There was no scoring in a tense opening period, with the Oilers putting 10 shots on Jonathan Quick, while the Kings sent seven on Edmonton starter Mike Smith. Quick came into the game with a 4-0 career record in Game 7s.

Edmonton came close to scoring midway though the second when a puck was heading over the goal line in a scramble, but was fished to safety just in time by Kings forward Andreas Athanasiou.

The Oilers finally broke the deadlock with 6:45 remaining in the second period as McDavid fed a pass from behind the net to a pinching Ceci, who rifled a shot over Quick’s shoulder.

WATCH l McDavid’s 2-point effort leads Oilers past Kings in Game 7:

Connor McDavid leads Oilers to game 7 win over Kings

5 hours ago

Duration 3:24

Edmonton shuts down Los Angeles in game seven after goals from Cody Ceci and Connor McDavid, they defeat the Kings 2-0 advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Edmonton came close to extending its lead a couple times early in the third as Josh Archibald narrowly missed putting a puck through Quick’s legs and Kailer Yamamoto hit a post with most of an open net to shoot at.

The Oilers finally got some insurance with 3:53 left in the third on a terrific individual effort from McDavid, who drove behind the net before sending his second backhand attempt into it for his fourth goal and league-leading 14th playoff point. McDavid had multiple point efforts in six of the seven games in the series.

The Oilers will now advance to play the winner of the Calgary Flames/Dallas Stars series — which will be decided in a Game 7 of its own on Sunday.

Oilers blank Kings to prevail in decisive Game 7, advance to 2nd round

Captain Connor McDavid has seen his team through to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

McDavid had a goal and an assist as the Edmonton Oilers advanced with a nerve-racking 2-0 Game 7 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

“It feels good to do it in that fashion,” McDavid said of the shutout. “There is always a lot of talk about the defensive side of the game, so for our group to step up in a big moment and play like that in a 2-0 win with (goalie Mike Smith) playing great and contributions from everyone, it feels good.”

“But that being said, it is just one round. There is a long way to go here. We’re happy to move on to the second round, but that is all we did, survived another day.”

Cody Ceci also scored and Mike Smith made 29 saves for his second shutout of the playoffs for the Oilers, who last won a Game 7 in1998 and celebrated their first playoff series win since 2017.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard a building so loud and I’ve been in the playoffs a few times with some pretty wild times, but that was incredible to be a part of,” Smith said. “The last couple of years with no fans has sucked, nobody in the building was disappointing. To win a Game 7 before home fans who gave us a boost before the drop of the puck, that was an incredible feeling and hopefully it’ll stick around for the next round.”

WATCH l McDavid’s 2-point effort leads Oilers past Kings in Game 7:

Connor McDavid leads Oilers to game 7 win over Kings

6 hours ago

Duration 3:24

Edmonton shuts down Los Angeles in game seven after goals from Cody Ceci and Connor McDavid, they defeat the Kings 2-0 advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Jonathan Quick made 39 saves in a losing effort for the Kings, who have not won a playoff series since they won their second Stanley Cup in 2014, also the last year they won a series in a Game 7.

“Right now it’s very frustrating obviously,” said Kings veteran Anze Kopitar. “This series was hard-fought, and we gave it all and we should be proud of that. There is certainly an element of growth within the group, and throughout the season and throughout the playoffs. It didn’t go for today and it’s extremely frustrating because we came in here believing we can get it done and we didn’t.”

Kings coach Todd McLellan felt the experience was an important one, even if it is hard to see right now.

“I think they’re small picture, big picture,” he noted. “Small picture, we’re disappointed. We said all along we were in it to win it, we weren’t just coming here just to gain experience and when you’re all in and you want to win and you don’t, it’s disappointing. We were all-in and it stings right now.”

There was no scoring in a tense opening period, with the Oilers putting 10 shots on Quick in the L.A. net, while the Kings sent seven on Edmonton starter Smith. Quick came into the game with a 4-0 career record in Game 7s.

Edmonton came close to scoring midway though the second when a puck was heading over the goal line in a scramble, but was fished to safety just in time by Kings forward Andreas Athanasiou.

The Oilers finally broke the deadlock with 6:45 remaining in the second period as McDavid fed a pass from behind the net to a pinching Ceci, who rifled a shot over Quick’s shoulder.

Edmonton came close to extending its lead a couple times early in the third as Josh Archibald narrowly missed putting a puck through Quick’s legs and Kailer Yamamoto hit a post with most of an open net to shoot at.

The Oilers finally got some insurance with 3:53 left in the third on a terrific individual effort from McDavid, who drove behind the net before sending his second backhand attempt into the net for his fourth goal and league-leading 14th playoff point. McDavid had multiple point efforts in six of the seven games in the series.

The loss represented the final game for Kings star forward Dustin Brown, who announced that this was his final season prior to the playoffs.

The Oilers will now advance to play the winner of the Calgary Flames/Dallas Stars series — which will be decided in a Game 7 of its own on Sunday.

Maple Leafs fall short as Lightning win tightly-contested Game 7 behind Paul's 2-goal night

This playoff heartbreak felt different for the Maple Leafs.

A team that had so often stumbled in big moments went toe-to-toe with the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

In the end, however, the result was the same — and perhaps even more crushing because of what might have been.

Nick Paul scored twice, including an incredible individual effort on the winner late in the second period, as the Tampa Bay Lightning topped Toronto 2-1 in Game 7 on Saturday to win the team’s first-round playoff series 4-3 in Toronto.

“It’s hard to explain,” Leafs captain John Tavares said in the wake of another devastating post-season setback for a franchise that hasn’t reached the second round since 2004. “It’s frustrating, hard to fathom.

“It stings, it hurts, it’s disappointing.”

WATCH | Paul leads charge as Lightning top Maple Leafs:

Paul scores twice to lead Lightning over Leafs in Game 7

9 hours ago

Duration 1:04

Nick Paul scored both of Tampa Bay’s goals to eliminate Toronto in their first-round series.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 30 saves for a team not yet ready to relinquish its crown despite losing star winger Brayden Point to an apparent leg injury late in the first period.

“A game of inches,” said Leafs star Auston Matthews, who scored 60 goals during the regular season and four more in playoffs. “Unfortunately we’re on the bad side of things tonight. It’s really frustrating.

“Every guy in there competed and gave it their all. They made one more play than us.”

Toronto had Tampa Bay, which will now meet the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida Panthers in the next round, on the ropes in Thursday’s Game 6 before the Lightning, as they so often have during their consecutive title runs, found a way to punch back.

“They’ve been through a lot of tough losses, heartbreak,” Matthews added. “And they’ve climbed the way to the top two years in a row.

“We’re right there … we’re right there.”

‘Getting sick and tired of feeling like this’

Morgan Rielly replied for Toronto, which hasn’t moved onto the second round in 18 years and is 0-9 in games where it can eliminate an opponent over the last five post-seasons. Jack Campbell stopped 23 shots.

Despite their best efforts, the Leafs were once again unable to push through and finally flip an long, ugly narrative of playoff failures for a franchise that has now lost its last seven series, including six straight dating back to 2017.

“We’re getting sick and tired feeling like this,” Toronto winger Mitch Marner said. “It’s gonna sting for a while.”

Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe was behind the bench for the 2020 post-season loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the bubble and a seven-game collapse against the Montreal Canadiens last spring after building a 3-1 lead — a pair of series where the group’s character was called into question by fans and media alike.

There’s unlikely to be any such qualms in 2022.

“This one hurts more because this was a really good team that really played hard,” Keefe said. “You can debate the merits of any sort of credit that you might want to give our team. But I don’t know if you can debate anything that you give the Tampa Bay Lightning, and who they are and what they stand for and what they’ve accomplished.

“And we’re right there standing with them.”

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said the series was one of the toughest his club has faced over the last three playoffs.

“A great hockey team,” he said of the Leafs. “They’ve got all the pieces. It’s not easy this time of the year.

“We’ve had some failures in the past … you just move on and you just gotta get over that hump.”

Missed chances, goal called off

Down 1-0 after 20 minutes Saturday, the Leafs appeared to tie the game at 11:28 of the second when Tavares roofed a shot on Vasilevskiy, but the goal was disallowed after Toronto defenceman Justin Holl was whistled for interference.

Campbell had to make a couple of desperation stops on the ensuing penalty kill to set the stage for Rielly’s equalizer off set-up from Marner and Matthews to score his third of the playoffs at 6:35 to send the crowd of 19,316 into a chaotic frenzy.

The goal was the first surrendered by Vasilevskiy and the Lightning in their last six series-deciding games.

William Nylander then missed high on a breakaway before the Tampa goaltender robbed Matthews with the Leafs buzzing.

Paul scored his second of the night — and second ever in the playoffs — moments later with 3:28 remaining in the period on a terrific play where he kicked the puck from his skate to his stick.

“The electricity in this building was nuts,” said the native of Mississauga, Ont. “To come in and work as hard as we did, there was no doubt in our game. We stuck together.”

Mixed emotions following loss

Vasilevskiy was under siege throughout a Leafs’ power play just over six minutes into the third, but kept the home side at bay despite some furious pressure.

Toronto continued to press inside an anxious, tension-filled rink as the clock ticked down.

The Leafs, however, just couldn’t find a way through with Campbell on the bench for an extra attacker.

“Lots of reasons to be proud,” Keefe said. “Yet lots of reasons to be devastated and upset.”

Fans react in the Maple Leaf Square tailgate area, outside the Scotiabank Arena, on May 14, 2022. The Toronto Maple Leafs lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Tampa Bay Lightening 2-1 on home ice. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Point, who scored the winner in Tampa’s Game 6 victory to extend the series, was injured late in the first when his right leg got caught underneath him as he fell to the ice. He tried to return after the intermission, but shut it down after a brief shift.

“When Pointer got hurt it seemed to lock the entire team in,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “I don’t think we looked back.”

The Lightning were playing in just their second Game 7 since the start of the 2020 playoffs after defeating the New York Islanders 1-0 in the semifinals last June.

Toronto’s last Game 7 at home with fans — the club’s 2021 loss against Montreal was played in front of 550 health-care workers because of COVID-19 restrictions — was all the way back in 2004 when Joe Nieuwendyk scored twice to oust the Ottawa Senators for the team’s last series win.

The Leafs didn’t make the playoffs again until 2013 when they collapsed in Game 7 against the Boston Bruins. Toronto’s new generation of stars made the post-season for the first time in 2017, but has since suffered a string of heartbreak that continued Saturday.

“Because the feeling is the same, the outcome is the same, whether or not there’s differences or more positives or whatever, it’s going to take some time to figure that out,” Rielly said of if this sixth straight series loss.

“Ultimately, the outcome is the same, which is very disappointing.”

Keefe said the tone of the handshake line, however, was different from past playoff setbacks.

“We’re certainly earning respect in the league,” he said. “But we’re not in the respect game. We’re in the winning game. We’ve got to find a way.”

That quest starts anew in the fall for a team that hasn’t hoisted the Cup since 1967.

Maple Leafs fall short as Lightning win tightly-contested Game 7 behind Paul's 2-goal night

This playoff heartbreak felt different for the Maple Leafs.

A team that had so often stumbled in big moments went toe-to-toe with the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

In the end, however, the result was the same — and perhaps even more crushing because of what might have been.

Nick Paul scored twice, including an incredible individual effort on the winner late in the second period, as the Tampa Bay Lightning topped Toronto 2-1 in Game 7 on Saturday to win the team’s first-round playoff series 4-3 in Toronto.

“It’s hard to explain,” Leafs captain John Tavares said in the wake of another devastating post-season setback for a franchise that hasn’t reached the second round since 2004. “It’s frustrating, hard to fathom.

“It stings, it hurts, it’s disappointing.”

WATCH | Paul leads charge as Lightning top Maple Leafs:

Paul scores twice to lead Lightning over Leafs in Game 7

9 hours ago

Duration 1:04

Nick Paul scored both of Tampa Bay’s goals to eliminate Toronto in their first-round series.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 30 saves for a team not yet ready to relinquish its crown despite losing star winger Brayden Point to an apparent leg injury late in the first period.

“A game of inches,” said Leafs star Auston Matthews, who scored 60 goals during the regular season and four more in playoffs. “Unfortunately we’re on the bad side of things tonight. It’s really frustrating.

“Every guy in there competed and gave it their all. They made one more play than us.”

Toronto had Tampa Bay, which will now meet the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida Panthers in the next round, on the ropes in Thursday’s Game 6 before the Lightning, as they so often have during their consecutive title runs, found a way to punch back.

“They’ve been through a lot of tough losses, heartbreak,” Matthews added. “And they’ve climbed the way to the top two years in a row.

“We’re right there … we’re right there.”

‘Getting sick and tired of feeling like this’

Morgan Rielly replied for Toronto, which hasn’t moved onto the second round in 18 years and is 0-9 in games where it can eliminate an opponent over the last five post-seasons. Jack Campbell stopped 23 shots.

Despite their best efforts, the Leafs were once again unable to push through and finally flip an long, ugly narrative of playoff failures for a franchise that has now lost its last seven series, including six straight dating back to 2017.

“We’re getting sick and tired feeling like this,” Toronto winger Mitch Marner said. “It’s gonna sting for a while.”

Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe was behind the bench for the 2020 post-season loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the bubble and a seven-game collapse against the Montreal Canadiens last spring after building a 3-1 lead — a pair of series where the group’s character was called into question by fans and media alike.

There’s unlikely to be any such qualms in 2022.

“This one hurts more because this was a really good team that really played hard,” Keefe said. “You can debate the merits of any sort of credit that you might want to give our team. But I don’t know if you can debate anything that you give the Tampa Bay Lightning, and who they are and what they stand for and what they’ve accomplished.

“And we’re right there standing with them.”

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said the series was one of the toughest his club has faced over the last three playoffs.

“A great hockey team,” he said of the Leafs. “They’ve got all the pieces. It’s not easy this time of the year.

“We’ve had some failures in the past … you just move on and you just gotta get over that hump.”

Missed chances, goal called off

Down 1-0 after 20 minutes Saturday, the Leafs appeared to tie the game at 11:28 of the second when Tavares roofed a shot on Vasilevskiy, but the goal was disallowed after Toronto defenceman Justin Holl was whistled for interference.

Campbell had to make a couple of desperation stops on the ensuing penalty kill to set the stage for Rielly’s equalizer off set-up from Marner and Matthews to score his third of the playoffs at 6:35 to send the crowd of 19,316 into a chaotic frenzy.

The goal was the first surrendered by Vasilevskiy and the Lightning in their last six series-deciding games.

William Nylander then missed high on a breakaway before the Tampa goaltender robbed Matthews with the Leafs buzzing.

Paul scored his second of the night — and second ever in the playoffs — moments later with 3:28 remaining in the period on a terrific play where he kicked the puck from his skate to his stick.

“The electricity in this building was nuts,” said the native of Mississauga, Ont. “To come in and work as hard as we did, there was no doubt in our game. We stuck together.”

Mixed emotions following loss

Vasilevskiy was under siege throughout a Leafs’ power play just over six minutes into the third, but kept the home side at bay despite some furious pressure.

Toronto continued to press inside an anxious, tension-filled rink as the clock ticked down.

The Leafs, however, just couldn’t find a way through with Campbell on the bench for an extra attacker.

“Lots of reasons to be proud,” Keefe said. “Yet lots of reasons to be devastated and upset.”

Fans react in the Maple Leaf Square tailgate area, outside the Scotiabank Arena, on May 14, 2022. The Toronto Maple Leafs lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Tampa Bay Lightening 2-1 on home ice. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Point, who scored the winner in Tampa’s Game 6 victory to extend the series, was injured late in the first when his right leg got caught underneath him as he fell to the ice. He tried to return after the intermission, but shut it down after a brief shift.

“When Pointer got hurt it seemed to lock the entire team in,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “I don’t think we looked back.”

The Lightning were playing in just their second Game 7 since the start of the 2020 playoffs after defeating the New York Islanders 1-0 in the semifinals last June.

Toronto’s last Game 7 at home with fans — the club’s 2021 loss against Montreal was played in front of 550 health-care workers because of COVID-19 restrictions — was all the way back in 2004 when Joe Nieuwendyk scored twice to oust the Ottawa Senators for the team’s last series win.

The Leafs didn’t make the playoffs again until 2013 when they collapsed in Game 7 against the Boston Bruins. Toronto’s new generation of stars made the post-season for the first time in 2017, but has since suffered a string of heartbreak that continued Saturday.

“Because the feeling is the same, the outcome is the same, whether or not there’s differences or more positives or whatever, it’s going to take some time to figure that out,” Rielly said of if this sixth straight series loss.

“Ultimately, the outcome is the same, which is very disappointing.”

Keefe said the tone of the handshake line, however, was different from past playoff setbacks.

“We’re certainly earning respect in the league,” he said. “But we’re not in the respect game. We’re in the winning game. We’ve got to find a way.”

That quest starts anew in the fall for a team that hasn’t hoisted the Cup since 1967.