Stanley Cup Playoffs Takeaways: The ‘game-saving save’ heard around Toronto

Shawn McKenzie and Luke Fox discuss Jack Campbell's huge save on Steven Stamkos, the Maple Leafs' depth coming in clutch, and how adjusting to the referees' standards will be advantageous.

There are moments in playoff games where a big save is “one to remember” for later in the game. It can be what tilts the momentum in a certain direction – save a big goal at one end, and have that translate into a big goal at the other. And when you look back after the game, that save turns out to be the difference, or turning point.

Andrei Vasilevskiy looked like he gave the Lightning that save in Game 3.

With Tampa trailing 3-1 in the third, Auston Matthews was sprung on a breakaway off a beautiful stretch pass from Morgan Rielly with a chance to bury the game. One-on-one against Vasilevskiy, the best shooter in the world versus the best goalie in the world. The goalie won. Twice.

Less than a minute later, the Lightning scored to cut the lead to one.

And then the Leafs found themselves in very familiar territory – clinging to a lead they at once had a firm grip on, but you could see loosening. Tampa pushed in the third period, outshot the Leafs 14-7, and it was the kind of game past iterations of a younger Leafs team found a way to lose.

This team and three-goal leads have not really gotten along in the past.

Tampa got one power play in the third period and it presented the moment where the importance of Vasilevskiy’s saves on Matthews would come into focus.

And it was the moment Leafs Nation had come to recognize as the inevitable letdown.

Nikita Kucherov had the puck on the wall and managed to find Steven Stamkos across the ice, in his office awaiting the one-timer. It was a goal you thought you could see coming seconds away.

Oh, no!

Oh, no!

It instead ended up being the moment Toronto’s goaltending swung a series in their direction.

“That’s a game-saving save,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said afterward. “We made a mistake on the play. We didn’t make a lot of mistakes on the penalty kill today. It seems we made one in the neutral zone that ends up in our net and we made one right there that allowed that pass right through. I think there was a bit of a sense on the bench that’s going in. Stamkos doesn’t miss much when it comes through like that.”

In losing their first playoff series five years in a row, the Leafs have always been missing an element. Whether it was production from their stars, bad penalties from lower in the lineup, weak goals against at crucial moments – the Leafs haven’t put it all together yet. And coming into the playoffs, there was concern that goaltending could be a negative again this post-season.

To say Campbell had an up-and-down season would be an understatement. He started as a Vezina contender and faded badly to below league average for months. A rib injury kept him out for a time and there was even speculation that the Leafs may have to add a goalie at the trade deadline. Then Petr Mrazek got hurt and all the Leafs had to go with was a wild card in Campbell and an unknown in Erik Kallgren.

On top of that, Campbell’s first-round assignment was to stare down the world’s best netminder.

“As an athlete, you want to be the best you can be,” Campbell said. “And, obviously, Vasi has proven how good he is over the course of his NHL career, so it’s a fun challenge. I’d be lying if I said I don’t want to do my best to beat him.”

In this series, it’s starting to come together for Toronto. The five-minute major crucially killed in Game 1 was a turning point, and the quick production from Matthews and Mitch Marner a great sign. We’ve seen the depth players shine through, especially in Game 3, and a defence that has made it hard for the Lightning to gain the zone or set up for much.

If they get goaltending that can hold the fort and match Vasilevskiy’s big-game moments, that’s the recipe for a Leafs breakthrough.

“That was a pretty nice save and a pretty crucial time of the game,” Matthews said. “That’s what he does. He gives us confidence every time he’s out there. He’s talkative, he chats out there, he has a lot of fun out there and I think that’s the most important part for him. When he’s playing really well, he’s having a lot of fun out there. You could see that in his play tonight. He made a lot of saves, but I think none bigger than that one at the end of the third there.”

If the Leafs can win two more games, it might be the save that’s looked back on as the one that finally got the monkey off Toronto’s back.

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There was no real reason to believe the Bruins would be able to push back in this series. The Canes dominated them in the regular season, winning each of their games and never trailing once. Carolina continued that into the post-season, and never trailed in either of Games 1 or 2. In fact, in most of the minutes played over the first two games, Carolina had at least a two-goal lead on Boston.

With the exception of one Taylor Hall goal, Patrice Bergeron had been the only Bruin to score on the Canes all year. Brad Marchand was quiet in terms of generating offence in the first two games, his most notable highlight being a run-in with rookie Carolina goalie Pyotr Kochetkov. David Pastrnak had 10 shots at 5-on-5 but nothing to show for it.

It wasn’t the best start again, as Carolina took the early 1-0 lead and sat in a position they were very comfortable all year. The Canes scored first in 49 of their 82 games this season, tied with Boston for fourth in the league. But where the Bruins dropped 10 of the games when they scored first, Carolina played much more secure with the lead and lost only four of them. Only Edmonton had fewer losses in games when they scored first.

Bruce Cassidy’s big move for Game 3 was to reunite the Perfection Line and boost Pastrnak up the lineup. They outshot the Canes 3-1 and outscored them 1-0. And it was a huge goal – Marchand’s first non empty-netter in 16 games, and Boston’s first lead on Carolina all season.

“When Marchy scored, that’s a big lift for us. We got a lead,” Cassidy said. “Now, all of a sudden we get to play a more comfortable game.”

Pastrnak scored on the power play to increase the lead to two and Hall added another power-play marker early in the third to pull away with a three-goal lead. It was Boston’s awakening stars who finally gave them a win over Carolina.

“I know that the onus this time of year is on your best players being your best players,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game. “If you have a little success on the power play, it bleeds into the rest of your game. So, they got it going; they’re back together again. Probably gave them a little comfort knowing the success they’ve had, so that helps them. And it’s up to the rest of the group not to fall off. And I found we had good contributions from everyone. Maybe not necessarily on the score sheet for some of the lines, but they were working hard to create offence.”

The Bruins became just the second team to win a game in these playoffs after allowing the first goal, and now the Hurricanes have let them off the mat.


The second-most blocked shots anyone logged in Game 2 was three … Derek Forbort got in the way of nine pucks.

“He’s a popular guy. He’s very quiet,” Bruce Cassidy said. “Guys root for guys like that. He was brought in to be that type of stay-at-home, try to be a stiff defender, keep the puck out of your net, shot blocker, really good on the PK. And he’s been as advertised.

“Those are the guys that make a difference in these type of games. You need your scorers to score and your muckers or checkers to be physical and block shots. That’s what makes a well-rounded machine.”

Special teams were a deciding factor in this game, with Carolina’s power play getting shut out and Boston’s going 2-for-5. The Bruins added a shorthanded goal as well from Connor Clifton.

Carolina was actually outshot 4-3 on their own power play and Forbort gave them a nightmare of a time getting pucks through on the man advantage. Six of his nine blocks came shorthanded.

He earned his ice and played more than any other Bruins player with 23:07 of ice time, and a game-high 6:46 while shorthanded.


Two bizarre incidents in this game.

First was when an ice cleaner skating toward the exit ran into linesman Jonny Murray, who shook off the check and continued on through the game. No word on supplemental discipline.

Another involved some overzealous fans breaking a pane of glass that fell into the penalty box and hit commercial coordinator Joe Foley, who was stretchered out of the rink. Was nice to see David Pastrnak come to give him a tap on the foot on his way out.

According to Bruins reporter Matt Porter, Foley was taken to hospital for precautionary reasons and “seems to be doing OK.”

“We send out our well-wishes that the gentleman’s fine,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said.

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Glass-bangers. SMH.


Ever since getting shut out in Game 1, the Wild have outscored the Blues 11-3, a team that has been celebrated for how deep it is on offence with nine 20-goal scorers.

On Minnesota’s side, Kirill Kaprizov and his line has garnered headlines and deservedly so, but a key component of their grip on the series is the secondary trio led by Joel Eriksson Ek.

Eriksson Ek between Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno was the best line on the ice in Game 3, controlling over 66 per cent of the shot attempts and 81 per cent of the expected goals, while outscoring the Blues 2-0 at 5-on-5. Greenway scored the game’s opening goal just 38 seconds in, setting a franchise record.

The story of this one again was a quick start from the Wild, who generated a number of odd-man rush opportunities in the opening period and scored both of their first two goals that way – Greenway’s 2-on-1 conversion and a breakaway opportunity by Kaprizov.

The Eriksson Ek line has been generating a ton of offence and opportunities and, in turn, neutralizing one of St. Louis’ – and the league’s – best lines in the process. Through three playoff games, this Minnesota line leads the league by controlling over 77 per cent of the expected goals at 5-on-5, and they haven’t been scored on once yet.

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