Hockey game breaks out ahead of playoff brawl between Maple Leafs and Lightning

Before any goals were scored in Toronto’s 5-0 win over Tampa Bay in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Maple Leafs’ Kyle Clifford was ejected after receiving a game misconduct for a major boarding against Ross Colton of the Lightning who may attract more interest from NHL Player Safety.

That hit set the tone for Game 1 of a playoff series that Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe predicted would be “borderline violent” before it started. After Clifford’s hit and what happened midway through the third period when the game was already out of reach for Tampa, Keefe’s prediction proved extremely accurate.

Triggered by a scuffle between Toronto’s Morgan Rielly and Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta, a line fight broke out that saw those two fighters along with Lightning’s Pat Maroon and Corey Perry and Toronto’s Wayne Simmonds and Ilya Lyubushkin heading for locker rooms with game fouls. . Looked:

“I think we managed their physicality well, both making plays and keeping the puck moving and not getting tossed around and then standing up when the nonsense starts late in the third,” Keefe told reporters after the game.

The Leafs have lost seven straight playoff series while the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning has won eight straight series since being swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2019 after a 128-point campaign and the first trophy franchise presidents. Game 2 is Wednesday.

Catherine J. Martinez