On Thursday, the Toronto Maple Leafs have won their first Stanley Cup Playoff series since 2004, and youngster Michael Bunting recognizes the significance of the situation.

The 26-year-old forward grew up in Scarborough, Ontario, and understands how important it is to advance.

Bunting said Wednesday, “I’ve been a Leaf fan my whole life, and I grew up watching this team play.” “We have a lot of die-hard admirers in this community, and I’m sure it would mean a lot to them if we could finish this.”

“Believe us when we say we want to do that, and we’ll do everything to make it happen.”

Putting them one win away from eliminating the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions in the best-of-seven series. Their first opportunity will come in Game 6 on Thursday in Tampa Bay (7:30 p.m. ET; TBS, CBC, TVAS, BSSUN). However, the Maple Leafs are playing for much more than advancing after losing six consecutive playoff series.

The Maple Leafs defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning

Maple Leafs

There’s still a chance for experienced players Jason Spezza and Wayne Simmonds to win the Stanley Cup. For the first time and Toronto’s first Cup triumph since 1967. There’s also the chance to snap a seven-game losing record in games where the Maple Leafs had an opportunity to progress, which dates back to a 7-4 loss to the Boston Bruins in 2018 of the first round in Game 7.

Jack Campbell remarked, “It’s a critical priority for us.” “That’s why we’re doing everything we can to get Spezza a ring, [Simmonds] and so many other individuals, and for this city. So much inspiration.”

Though he did not score in Game 5, the 38-year-old Spezza, a 19-year NHL veteran, was instrumental in the victory. After a disappointing first period in which Toronto trailed 2-0 and outshot 14-4. He delivered an impassioned speech to the Maple Leafs during the first break.

A fan holding a sign that read “Do it for Spezza” was featured on the big screen. At Scotiabank Arena near the end of the first period.

“I appreciate the city’s support,” said Spezza, who spent his first 12 NHL seasons with the Ottawa Senators (2002-14) before signing with Toronto as a free agent on July 1, 2019. “Since my return, the city has been nothing but welcoming. We all want to win; we’re all here battling together. We worked hard to earn a spot in the playoffs, and now that we’ve arrived, we can’t afford to waste any time.”

Going to Game 7

The Toronto are fully aware of the monsters of their recent past. Going to Game 7 would bring up another questionable statistic. They have lost all four of their previous Game 7s, dating back to a 5-4 overtime loss to the Bruins in the first round of the 2013 playoffs. They also lost Game 5 of the best-of-five 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The most recent Game 7 loss occurred last season in the first round when they lost 3-1. To the rival Montreal Canadiens after blowing a 3-1 series lead.

It’s why Spezza believes the urgency displayed in Game 5’s final two periods, which led to the comeback victory, must be present in Game 6.

“We had possibilities last year, but we didn’t take advantage of them,” Spezza explained. “When you’re in a Game 7, anything can happen. We’ve given ourselves two choices to win the series, but there must be a strong urge. And the same sense of urgency that we had last game to come back from a deficit carried over to Tampa.”

Since the 2020 playoffs, the Lightning has gone 16-0 after a loss.

Sheldon Keefe, the Maple Leaf’s coach, acknowledged the Lightning’s challenge. After capturing the Presidents’ Trophy for the best regular-season record in the NHL, the Blue Jackets swept in the first round of the playoffs.

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