A classic period, a Game 5 win, and the roller coaster of Maple Leafs fandom

Auston Matthews scored the third-period go-ahead goal and William Nylander chipped in three points as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 to take a 3-2 lead in their first-round series.

Twenty minutes don't always pass at the same cadence.

On Tuesday, in a playoff game that oscillated between feeling doomed and destined, the Toronto Maple Leafs reminded everyone just how different the passage of time can feel.

It started fast, anxious, uncertain. The Maple Leafs trailed Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning early after rapid-fire goals by Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. Scotiabank Arena fell silent. Fans around the world tweeted louder. They'd seen this film before.

But then, hope for a different ending, starting in the second period.

John Tavares, after a series rife with struggles, notched his first of these playoffs, breaking loose from his trademark stoicism; giving the Maple Leafs a reason to do the same.

Period 2 ticked away into the past. The score didn't change but time doesn't stop — and neither did the Leafs.

Morgan Rielly tied the game. Just over 60 seconds sprinted by before William Nylander delivered as he often has these playoffs, giving Toronto — on the ice and everywhere else — exactly what it needed.

The ebbs and flows of a game, of a series, of the playoffs themselves are familiar to the Lightning, though. A team does not lift the Cup as often as they have without learning a thing or two about what it takes to get through the tensest parts, when each second presses down on the chest, a reminder that it's there and will soon be gone.

So of course, they knew how to answer.

Ryan McDonagh scored to tie the game once more with 11:43 remaining.

With just over 11 minutes to go, there was too much time, and not enough.

A climactic win was right there, waiting; a heartbreaking loss loomed just as large.

On this night in Toronto, though, Auston Matthews decided which one would come to pass.

When submitting content, please abide by our  submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.
We use cookies to improve your experience. Learn More or change your cookie preferences. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies.