Sheldon Keefe reacts to Leafs once again failing in closeout game

The series once again shifts back to Tampa Bay.



The Toronto Maple Leafs missed out on their chance to clinch their first postseason series victory since 2004 tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning, dropping a 4-2 decision to give the Bolts new life and a renewed sense of swagger as the two teams head back to Amalie Arena for Game 6 on Saturday night. 

Despite taking an early 1-0 lead courtesy of Game 3 overtime hero Morgan Rielly, the Lightning would respond with three straight tallies, including the winner from Nick Paul midway through the third period. Auston Matthews would score late to give Toronto a chance at the tie, but an empty netter from Alex Killorn would seal the win.

The Bolts also got goals from rookie Mikey Eyssimont as well as Anthony Cirelli, while goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy rebounded from three straight uncharacteristically poor performances by making 28 saves in the win. 

This now marks the 11th straight time since 2013 that the Maple Leafs have failed to advance when a victory would have punched their ticket to the next round. 

Afterward, head coach Sheldon Keefe tipped his hat to the Lightning and their performance with their backs up against the wall while dismissing the thought that perhaps once again the moment was too big for his team. 

"Obviously, we didn’t get the result, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the moment or anything like that," Keefe said. "It is a good hockey team we are playing against. They played as perfect of a road game as you could probably ask for if you are them."

"We had some opportunities here tonight," he continued. "We scored first, so you like that. We had some really good opportunities on our power play in the first period and a chance to take the lead there. We couldn’t convert on those kinds of looks. It was probably the most looks we had on one power play all series. It didn’t go for us. It is a tight hockey game all the way through. We couldn’t get the next one."

The Lightning, who have been to the Stanley Cup Final the last three straight seasons, have no intention of breaking for an early summer. And Toronto is well aware of that as they head back down south for Game 6.