Brayden Point scored the winning goal in overtime and forced a Game 7, as the Tampa Bay Lightning secured a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.

Ondrej Palat, Anthony Cirelli and Nikita Kucherov also scored for the reigning Stanley Cup champions, but they had to battle until 1:56 remaining in overtime for Point's sealer.

The Lightning had to fight their way back from 3-2 down in the final period with their season on the line, after Leafs captain John Tavares scored twice in the second period's closing 34 seconds.

With his side dropping a lead for the second straight game, Tavares said the focus is now on regrouping as the series heads back to Toronto for the decider.

"We worked hard all year to earn home ice and we've got a great opportunity going home in front of our fans to try to close this thing out," he said.

"So just regroup here, and look forward to the opportunity. This is what the game's all about."

The Boston Bruins also forced a Game 7 after they defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2, while the St. Louis Blues advanced to the second round, beating the Minnesota Wild 5-1 in Game 6.

In Thursday's final game, the Edmonton Oilers evened their series up with the Los Angeles Kings in Game 6, winning 4-2.

Auston Matthews says his game-winner was "pretty special" after the Toronto Maple Leafs battled back from two goals down to win 4-3 over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL playoffs on Tuesday.

The Maple Leafs trailed 2-0 after the first period but rallied with Matthews settling the contest with their third goal in the third period.

The win means Toronto lead 3-2 in the best-of-seven series against the reigning Stanley Cup champions.

"It was pretty special," Matthews told reporters, speaking about the goal. "To battle back from down two goals, and never losing hope and competing, that was big."

Matthews led the NHL across the regular season with 60 goals but he had not scored in the playoffs since Game 1 of the series.

Teammate John Tavares, who pulled one back during the second-period power play, praised the NHL's back-to-back Rocket Richard Trophy winner Matthews, who was also credited with seven hits.

"His whole game is all just really good," Tavares said. "When you score 60 goals, that's going to get [discussed], and how he scores it in different ways and the uniqueness of his shot in his abilities, but his all-around game is as good as anybody's in the league.

"He's going to play hard and compete because they're making it hard on him to earn his ice and opportunities, so good for him to play them hard."

The victory means Toronto are one win away from the franchise's first playoff series victory since 2004.

"I just think we needed to possess the puck a little bit more," Matthews said. "Get on top of them and be forechecking and not giving them as much time and space. We were on top of them and had our heads up to make plays."

Elsewhere, Adrian Kempe's over-time goal earned the Los Angeles Kings a 5-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers, having blown a 3-1 lead.

The goal was Kempe's second of the game, as he finished with a three-point performance. The result puts the Kings up 3-2 in the series.

The Carolina Hurricanes also moved up 3-2 in their series against the Boston Bruins with an emphatic 5-1 win after losing their past two.

Rookie Seth Jarvis scored twice and Antti Raanta finished with 34 saves.

The St Louis Blues piled on three third-period goals, all from a Vladimir Tarasenko hat-trick, to secure a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild to lead their series 3-2.

Tony DeAngelo saved special praise for rookie goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov after the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Boston Bruins 5-2 on Wednesday.

Kochetkov was thrust into the spotlight for his playoff debut as the Hurricanes took a 2-0 lead in what is becoming a fiery series.

With Frederik Andersen already down, tempers boiled over as the Canes had to turn to Kochetkov after Antti Raanta was struck in the head by David Pastrnak's glove as he skated past.

The two teams traded words and big hits throughout, and defenseman DeAngelo made it clear where the Hurricanes stand with the Bruins in this series.

"We're not going to get pushed around, I guarantee you that," he said.

DeAngelo was glowing of Kochetkov's demeanour after the first-period change and his ability to keep it simple in a heated environment, making 30 saves.

"I think he's real calm," his team-mate said. "You don't see any jitters, at least in my eyes. I don't know what he's feeling inside. I'm sure he's a little nervous. Anybody would be, right?

"But I thought he was real calm in the net. He made a lot of saves, wasn't trying to do too much. He was calm. Coming into goal in the first period in a playoff game as a rookie after coming here a few weeks ago, he was really good."

Elsewhere on Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Minnesota Wild tied up their respective series against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the St. Louis Blues with wins.

The Edmonton Oilers also tied up their series, smashing the Los Angeles Kings in a 6-0 shutout.

The NHL's leading goal-scorer and MVP candidate Auston Matthews slotted home two more in the Toronto Maple Leafs' 5-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of their playoff series.

Matthews – who is first player since 2011-12 to score 60 goals in a season – got on the scoresheet early in the second period to make it 2-0 for Toronto after Jake Muzzin's opener to close the first frame.

Mitchell Marner assisted the first Matthews goal and also set up David Kampf to make it 3-0, before he got on the scoresheet himself to make it four, capping off a brilliant second period.

Matthews scored his second goal of the game to round out the rout in the last period, with Morgan Reilly collecting his second assist in the process.

Speaking to post-game media, Matthews gave plenty of credit to the Maple Leafs' penalty-killing unit after the Lightning failed to score from five power-play attempts, as well as his running-mate Marner.

"I thought we played fast, we played through the contact," he said. "Our penalty-kill [unit] was huge tonight, I thought that brought us a lot of momentum.

"I thought [Marner] was incredible. He was all over the puck – so much poise – he's just doing his thing out there. 

"It's fun to watch, and fun to be out there with him. I know he's going to continue to elevate, so we've got to look for everybody to do that as well.

"We were able to capitalise on some chances, so I thought it was a really good effort by us. But it's a series – it's going to be a long series – and there's a really good team on the other end. 

"They'll be ready to go next game, so we've got to watch this one, learn from it, and move on to the next one."

Matthews also highlighted the energy inside the building as the Toronto crowd tries to will their team to their first series win since 2004.

"It was humming here tonight," he said. "It was just electric through all 60 minutes.

"I think that's what playoff hockey is all about, the atmosphere and everything. 

"It's been a while since we've been in front of our fans in front of a full arena in the playoffs, so there's a lot of excitement, and the guys fed off the energy."

It was a similarly dominant showing for the Carolina Hurricanes, as they beat the Boston Bruins 5-1 at home.

There were five individual goal-scorers for the Hurricanes as Seth Jarvis, Nino Niederreiter, Teuvo Teravainen, Vincent Trocheck and Andrei Svechnikov put in one each.

The St Louis Blues collected an important road win against the Minnesota Wild, scoring twice in the opening period on the way to a 4-0 result.

David Perron was the man of the hour for the Blues, capping off his hat-trick with the final goal of the game, while Torey Krug had three assists.

The most competitive game of the night was the Los Angeles Kings' trip to take on the Edmonton Oilers, escaping with a 4-3 road win.

After two action-packed periods the sides were tied at 3-3 going into the last, with a late Phillip Danault goal proving to be the difference.

Monday’s Minnesota Twins’, Minnesota Timberwolves’ and Minnesota Wild’s games are not being played a day after Duante Wright was killed by police in a Minneapolis suburb. 

The Twins were set to open a four-game series against the Boston Red Sox at Target Field, the Timberwolves were scheduled to face the Brooklyn Nets at the Target Center and the Wild were slated to host the St. Louis Blues at Xcel Energy Center. 

The decisions were made after Mr Wright, a 20-year-old black man, was fatally shot on Sunday following a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. 

Shortly after the shooting, protesters descended on the Brooklyn Center Police Department and were met by a police contingent in riot gear amid scenes of unrest.

''Out of respect for the tragic events that occurred yesterday in Brooklyn Center, and following the additional details in this evolving situation, the Minnesota Twins have decided it is in the best interests of our fans, staff, players and community to not play today's game,'' the Twins said in a statement on Twitter.  

In their own statement, the NHL team said: "The Minnesota Wild organization extends its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Daunte Wright."

A body camera video released on Monday by the Brooklyn Center Police Department showed Wright got out of his car during the traffic stop, but appeared to try to escape from the police officer’s attempts to handcuff him before getting back into the driver’s seat.

A police officer then shouted "Taser!" several times but fired a gun at Wright. 

"It is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr Wright with a single bullet," Brooklyn Center Police chief Tim Gannon said, as per the New York Times.

"It appears to me, from what I viewed, and the officer's reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in a tragic death of Mr Wright."

The Twin Cities region was the epicentre of the Black Lives Matter movement last year when George Floyd was killed in police custody.

The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering Mr Floyd, is taking place in a courtroom less than 10 miles from where Mr Wright was shot.

"Yesterday's tragic event, involving the life of Daunte Wright, once again leaves our community mourning,” the Timberwolves said in a statement on Twitter. 

Like everything else over the past year, the hockey world has been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic. The 2019-20 season was completed with teams playing in bubble locations in Toronto and Edmonton and the 2020 campaign will open without fans as part of a condensed 56-game season, among a slew of other changes. 

With the previous season extending several months past the normal ending date, the league had little choice but to delay the start of 2021 and to find a way to make a shortened season work. The new plan is for the regular season to end on May 8, with the Stanley Cup awarded no later than July 9. 

Of course, nothing is set in stone anymore and the NBA and NFL have had to deal with countless COVID-19 issues, so the NHL expects similar problems to arise with the pandemic experiencing another surge. The league knows it may have to adapt and games will very likely need to be rescheduled. 

The NHL has already dealt with this, as the start of the season for the Dallas Stars had to be pushed back to January 19 after six players and two staffers tested positive for coronavirus. While the completion of last season in the bubble locations was virtually flawless, teams are playing in home arenas this season, increasing the chances of players becoming infected. 

To combat this, teams will be allowed to carry taxi squads of four to six extra players who will practice and be prepared to step in when needed. 

While there is less hockey to enjoy, there are some tweaks to the upcoming season that fans will enjoy. 

The four divisions have been realigned and they include an all-Canada division of seven teams, made necessary by border restrictions. The other three divisions are mostly based on geography, but St Louis and Minnesota were shuffled into a division with the three California teams, Vegas, Arizona and Colorado. 

The Chicago-Detroit rivalry gets renewed with the Red Wings moving into the Central Division, and Tampa Bay and Dallas – last season's Stanley Cup Final participants – are now together in the Central.  

There should be no shortage of intensity this season with teams scheduled to play mostly back-to-back sets solely against teams in their own division. So, the Flyers and Penguins will meet eight times, as will the Islanders and Rangers and Kings and Ducks. The teams in the all-Canada division will face each other nine or 10 times.  

The first two playoff rounds will be played within the division, meaning the bad blood that started in the regular season could grow even deeper. The division winners will then advance to the semifinals but seeding will be based on points rather than geography.  

The new setup raises the possibility of a Stanley Cup Final between traditional East teams like the Capitals and Penguins or Canadian rivals Montreal and Toronto.   

To recoup some of the money lost by having no fans or limited fans at the start of the season in some cities, the NHL is allowing teams to include a sponsor name on their helmets and each division will also include the name of a corporate sponsor. 

The condensed season was preceded by an abbreviated training camp without exhibition games and there is concern that the start of the season will be marred by sloppy play. This could be especially true for the seven teams that have not played a game since March after they did not qualify for the expanded playoffs.  

As in any offseason, several big-name players changed teams. It will be jarring to see 43-year-old Zdeno Chara in a Capitals uniform and Joe Thornton playing for the Maple Leafs after 14 seasons in San Jose. Henrik Lundqvist would have looked strange as a member of the Capitals following an 887-game run with the Rangers, but he decided not to play this season due to a heart condition. 

Injuries will also keep some marquee players off the ice for a while. Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov – the 2018-19 scoring leader – will miss the entire regular season due to hip surgery and the Stars could be without top forward Tyler Sequin (hip) and goaltender Ben Bishop (knee) until at least March.  

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is out indefinitely with an unknown illness and there is no word on whether the 12-time 20-goal scorer will play this season. 

While this season is full of unknowns and will be like no other before it, the potential is there for it to be one of the most exciting in recent memory.

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