The Toronto Maple Leafs are still very much in control of their own destiny in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
But a post-season berth with such a young — yet incredibly talented team — isn’t coming easy.
Toronto remains in the final wild card spot in the East, but their lead in the standings now stands at three points after Thursday’s results.
The Maple Leafs had an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot, but instead they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning — which were minus Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson — by a score of 4-1. The New York Islanders shut out the Carolina Hurricanes to also keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
The Leafs, Lightning and Islanders each have two games remaining on their respective schedules.
“You go over and over a foundation of how to play so in the big moments you do what you do, and we didn’t do that,” said Leafs coach Mike Babcock, per Kristen Shilton of TSN.
This result sets up a rather interesting scenario for the weekend.
Despite two straight losses, the Maple Leafs can clinch a playoff spot when they face the Pittsburgh Penguins, and former teammate Phil Kessel, on Saturday. Feel free to take a trip down memory lane with those crazy PHT predictions “that probably won’t happen, but on second thought, you never know” from the start of the season.
The Lightning visit the Canadiens on Friday, while the Islanders face the Devils on Saturday.