Leafs fans ride emotional roller coaster in dramatic win over Lightning

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Leafs fans went through a full gamut of emotions in Thursday's game against the Lightning. (Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)
Leafs fans went through a full gamut of emotions in Thursday's game against the Lightning. (Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)

It got off to a real rocky start — and it stayed that way until the last possible moment.

The Tampa Bay Lightning opened the score on the Toronto Maple Leafs at 13:16 in the first period and Scotiabank Arena went from bustling with excitement to seething in frustration.

Never mind that the Maple Leafs had come into the contest with three consecutive wins. Trailing 1-0 in the first period was enough to piss off Leafs Twitter.

With a lot of help from Andrei Vasilevskiy, the Lightning held onto the one-goal lead all the way through the first and second periods. The Maple Leafs finished the game with 32 shots on goal — five of them by captain John Tavares — but for most of the night it seemed impossible to score on the former Vezina Trophy winner.

By mid-second, miserable fans had had just about enough.

It seemed like so many other Leafs moments we've seen in the past few years. Toronto's previous three wins had come against the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and the struggling Vegas Golden Knights. Fitting that it would all collapse as soon as Toronto faced a "real team."

Even if Jack Campbell was out there looking like a Vezina candidate himself.

There was drama, dirty hits, mounting frustration and plenty of scoring chances. But there were just no goals.

Some fans resorted to superstition and all sorts of reverse psychology.

Enter Tavares.

The Leafs captain was a man on a mission Thursday night, so it was only fair that he'd get to play hero. Tavares scored with less than a minute to go in the third period to tie the game at one apiece and send it to overtime. Suddenly, the energy of Leafs Nation was really different.

After finally finding the lighting the lamp and getting back into it, the Leafs headed into overtime with all the momentum on their side.

Tavares drew a power play after Victor Hedman was called for slashing, further paving the way for a comeback for the ages. William Nylander didn't disappoint on the man advantage. At 2:43 into OT, he netted the winner against the reigning champions, sending Leafs players and fans alike into delirium.

Predictably, Leafs Twitter changed its tune real fast after the comeback.

Make it four straight wins and second place in the Atlantic.

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