It’s been more than 50 years since the Toronto Maple Leafs earned the right to raise the Stanley Cup, and while they’ve appeared in the postseason dozens of times since then, they’ve failed to get over the hump.
The franchise has appeared in the Stanley Cup Playoffs 13 times in the new millennium alone, but you have to go all the way back to 2004 to find the last occasion where they were able to advance past the first round.
Five of those series saw the Leafs get eliminated in seven games—although most fans would tell you that number should’ve been four based on what unfolded when they faced off against the Bruins in 2013.
The seventh game of that series is a particularly infamous one, as it seemed like Toronto had things in the bag after pulling out to the 4-1 lead they held with less than eleven minutes remaining in the third period.
However, Boston was able to mount a comeback for the ages by tying the game in the final minute before capping it off with the game-winning goal in overtime.
It’s safe to assume plenty of Leafs fans were triggered a bit after the Lightning pulled out to a 4-1 lead in the second period of Monday night’s Game 4 showdown, although they could take some bitter solace in knowing there was a chance history could repeat itself based on what unfolded in that aforementioned series.
While it appeared Tampa Bay was well on its way to evening the series at two games apiece, the Maple Leafs had different ideas.
The Lightning found themselves nursing the most dangerous lead in hockey after Auston Matthews narrowed the deficit to two goals midway through the third before scoring yet again to make it 4-3 with 7:31 remaining.
MATTHEWS MAKES IT A ONE GOAL GAME 🚨
(🎥: @MapleLeafs) pic.twitter.com/9DW4lsIdLo
— theScore (@theScore) April 25, 2023
The momentum stayed on Toronto’s side, and Morgan Rielly tied things up when he got in on the action with 3:35 left on the clock.
RIELLY TIES THE GAME FOR THE LEAFS. IT WAS 4-1 👀 pic.twitter.com/Ewl5PZ6Rf1
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) April 25, 2023
The contest headed into overtime, and Alex Kerfoot officially flipped the script by tipping in the game-winner to give the Maple Leafs the 5-4 win and a 3-1 lead in the series.
LEAFS COMPLETE THE COMEBACK‼️
Toronto comes back from behind down 4-1 to winning in OT.
They lead the series 3-1 heading back to Canada.
🎥 @MapleLeafs pic.twitter.com/hipgBd4IR7
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) April 25, 2023
It’s probably too early to say the jinx has officially been lifted, as recent history would suggest the Lightning will win the next three games and dash Toronto’s hopes and dreams yet again.
With that said, the Maple Leafs are firmly in control here, and you have to imagine the team (and its fans) will breathe a huge sigh of relief if this particular comeback results in them finally advancing to the second round for the first time in close to 20 years.