May 20, 2022

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One of the best defenseman on the planet does not at all times win the Norris Trophy, and the perfect goaltender on the planet does not at all times win the Vezina Trophy, however when the playoffs begin, they’re positive to get on the sector.

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Victor Hedman and Andrey Vasilevsky greater than confirmed up Wednesday night time and placed on a blinding present of kinds within the second sport of this best-of-seven sequence, and now the Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning are tied in the identical sport.

And in a playoff sequence filled with stars, they shone their brightest on Wednesday night time, and it was truthfully arduous to not watch, admire, and applaud. They’re so particular. They’re so proficient. And they are going to be troublesome to battle in each sport of the sequence.

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It turns into much more of a problem when the occasional breakouts and rebounds work towards the Leafs — as they did in Sport 2.

The Maple Leafs in all probability performed nicely sufficient to win Sport 2 within the first two intervals, nicely sufficient to take a 2-0 lead within the sequence earlier than falling aside within the third. However all night time lengthy Hedman did what Hedman does greatest. He managed the puck. He managed the sport. He performed the Tampa Bay Orchestra. And everybody else performed alongside to the beat, not lacking a beat.

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The aim scored by Hedman within the final seconds of the primary interval fell on Tampa, who performed within the majority and, it could appear, on the finish of time. Out of the blue, Hedman appeared close to the Leaf aim, enjoying the place a striker would usually play, and from shut vary, with nobody between him and Jack Campbell, he scored with 2.4 seconds left in what ought to have been the primary goalless interval. .

In a single second it appeared that the primary interval would finish in a draw. The subsequent second, Hedman made the rating 1-0.

After which Vasilevsky threw himself.

Early within the second interval, with a aim, the Leafs had a golden alternative to equalize. Timothy Liljegren, an rising defender, shot the puck from the highest slot, Vasilevsky fell to the ice, and your entire high of the gate was empty. The kick appeared to be on its strategy to a aim. However Vasilevsky reached out to heaven and made gloves that solely nice goalkeepers have.

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As an alternative of going 1-1, he went 1-0, and shortly thereafter, Hedman made a flawless go to a reduce by Corey Perry, who break up the Maple Leafs pair of Morgan Rilly and Igor Lyubushkin right into a breakaway.

Perry scored towards Jack Campbell, who had a superb night time in Toronto. Saving Vasilevsky. Elder Cross. And as a substitute of the interval ending 0:0, and as a substitute of enjoying 1:1 within the second interval, Tampa Bay 2:0.

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as a substitute of 1-1. Or 1-0. It was so delicate at first, earlier than it turned one-sided. And even then, the occasional unhealthy break labored towards the Leafs. David Kampf was capturing a penalty with Wayne Simmonds within the field and hoped to go the puck to T.J. Brody, which was good play. Besides Brody misplaced his stick. As an alternative, the puck went to Hedman, who handed to Steven Stamkos, who introduced down Nikita Kucherov to make it 3-1.

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The Leafs have been outmaneuvered and outplayed, and as night time fell additionally they misplaced self-discipline. And but they have been there. That is an thrilling a part of the sequence that’s now linked. Nice gamers on either side can win these video games nearly on their very own.

Hedman’s powerplay aim from Alex Kerfoot’s silly penalty should not have occurred. Kucherov’s powerplay aim, once more from a play began by Hedman, was scored after an pointless penalty from Simmonds, who had others that night.

4 factors for Hedman within the second sport. You might need Cale Makar or Roman Yozi when common video games are performed within the season, however I will take Hedman when all that issues is profitable.

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It was an enormous comeback sport for Lightning. It was an enormous comeback night time for Hedman and Vasilevsky greater than anybody else on the Lightning.

In Sport 1, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner every scored six factors because the Leafs fully thrashed the Stanley Cup champions 5-0.

In Sport 2, Hedman scored a aim, arrange three extra, modified the sport when it wanted to be modified, and truly gained the night time for the Lightning. With somewhat extra assist from his good friend on the gate.

The aim he scored. Rescue of Vasilevsky on Liljegren. Breakaway go Hedman made Perry. He had a presence. So many video games, so many moments.

And now the sequence is over. Two extra factors for Matthews. Marner has two extra factors. Two objectives in two playoff video games for Marner after 18 video games with out a aim. However tonight it was all about the perfect defenseman and goaltender on the planet, and the truth that the Leafs must cope with each sport within the sequence.

ssimmons@postmedia.com

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