Marner, Matthews, Maple Leafs maul Lightning in Game 1

Marner, Matthews, Maple Leafs maul Lightning in Game 1
Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

When people troll Toronto, it’s normally not about how they start playoff games, or series. Tragic collapses become more dramatic after promising beginnings. (“It was 4-1,” after all.) So, no one should get too hasty. But either way, the Maple Leafs absolutely skated the Lightning out of the building to start the First Round series, winning Game 1 5-0.

Clifford major doesn’t derail Toronto early on

Even a team with zero playoff demons would struggle to contain the Lightning’s dangerous power play over a five-minute major opportunity.

With the Maple Leafs’ agonizing past in mind, it seemed like the Lightning might light the Buds up early in Game 1 after a foolish and arguably dirty hit by Kyle Clifford:

Instead, the Maple Leafs overwhelmed the Lightning with a high-pressure penalty kill (a power-kill, if you will). They generated multiple rush opportunities, didn’t allow a goal, and drew a penalty in the late stages.

Late in the first period, Jake Muzzin rewarded that strong team play with a goal.

Maple Leafs rarely relented in Game 1 win over the Lightning

After a strong start, there’s a risk that the momentum will shift. That didn’t really happen in Game 1 of Lightning –  Maple Leafs.

On the power play, Auston Matthews carried over the scoring touch from his historic, 60-goal regular season by scoring the 2-0 tally.

After that wonderful PK in the first (and getting a PPG in the second), the Maple Leafs continued their special teams dominance over the Lightning in Game 1. David Kampf added a shorthanded goal to the mix, giving Toronto an impressive 3-0 lead.

Toronto didn’t just win this one, either. You could look at it as Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner exercising at least some playoff demons.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

Mitch Marner put on some absolutely beautiful moves — stupefying the Lightning, including Andrei Vasilevskiy — in scoring a goal worth putting on an AND1 Mixtape.

Yes, Mitch Marner is a premiere passer above all else. Still, it had to mean a lot to break an 18-game playoff goal drought.

The game entered the third period with the Maple Leafs up 4-0, and the Lightning didn’t stand much of a chance of inspiring some “It was 4-0” memes. Instead, Matthews scored another goal (5-0), and it was all over except for the violence.

Honestly, it was a bit surprising that the Lightning didn’t rest players more once the writing was on the wall — especially Vasilevskiy. Like other teams, Tampa Bay hasn’t been particularly interested in resting players strategically, even when you consider the wear-and-tear of repeat Stanley Cup wins.

Did the Maple Leafs win Game 1 so handily because they have fresher legs than the Lightning? Unclear. Toronto looked faster, more tenacious, and just a whole lot better to start this much-anticipated First Round series.

Tampa Bay has to hope things look very different in Game 2 (7:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday).

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS v. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING schedule (TOR leads 1-0)

Game 1: Maple Leafs 5, Lightning 0
Game 2: May 4, 7:30 p.m. ET – Lightning at Maple Leafs (Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports, ESPN2)
Game 3: May 6, 7:30 p.m. ET –  Maple Leafs at Lightning (TBS, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 4: May 8, 7 p.m. ET – Maple Leafs at Lightning (TBS, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 5: May 10, TBD – Lightning at Maple Leafs (TBD)
*Game 6: May 12, TBD – Maple Leafs at Lightning (TBD)
*Game 7: May 14, TBD – Lightning at Maple Leafs (TBD)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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