Late in the first period, Ilya Samsonov skated off the ice at Scotiabank Arena and hurled his helmet into the Maple Leafs bench on Monday night.
By then he had allowed four goals on a dozen shots and received mock cheers from the crowd when he stopped an easy one.
Toronto trailed 4-1 after 20 minutes and boos rained down as it headed to its dressing room for the first intermission.
“At that point, you feel pretty crappy,” Sheldon Keefe, the Maple Leafs coach, said after a stirring 6-5 victory over in overtime the Lightning. “I didn’t think we played that badly but the puck kept going in the net. It was really hard.”
Calle Jarnkrok scored twice, including the game-winner 46 seconds into extra time, as Toronto stormed back from a three-goal deficit and ended a four-game losing streak.
Auston Matthews also scored twice, Mitch Marner had a goal and three assists and Matthew Knies had a goal and two assists as the Maple Leafs improved to 6-4-2. Tampa Bay dropped to 5-3-4.
William Nylander collected an assist on Jarnkrok’s winner to extend his season-opening franchise-record points streak to 12 games.
Joseph Woll, who came on in relief of the leaky Samsonov, made 18 saves to earn the win. Last month he was called upon in a similar situation and shut out the Lightning in an overtime victory in Tampa.
“It was pretty special,” Woll said. “It was a big one for us to get back in the win column.
“When I came in I tried not to think too much. I want to be in the moment as best I can.”
It looked like a fifth straight loss was at hand after the Lightning scored four unanswered goals to take a 4-1 lead after one period. Samsonov was pulled after he allowed those four goals on just 12 shots.
The Lightning ran roughshod early but as bad as the Maple Leafs were in the first period they were good in the second and third. They were so abysmal in the first 20 minutes that fans cheered when it was announced that 60 seconds remained before the first intermission. A minute later, they booed the team off the ice.
After Knies put Toronto ahead on a nifty backhand three minutes 52 seconds after the opening puck drop, Tampa Bay scored four times, with two by Nikita Kucherov.
Matthews scored twice in the second – his league-leading 12th and 13th goals of the year – to pull Toronto to within 4-3. Marner assisted on those two as well as Knies’s third goal of the season. The Maple Leafs tied it early in the third on a goal by Jarnkrok and then went ahead 5-4 when Marner roofed a shot over Tampa Bay goalie Jonas Johansson. Johansson had 27 saves.
Then Tampa Bay forged a tie on a goal by Brandon Hagel with 2:26 left in the third.
The matchup featured Atlantic Division rivals and previous and likely future playoff opponents. Toronto ended the longest drought of any team in the league last season when it ousted Tampa Bay from the postseason in the first round. The Lightning sent the Maple Leafs packing in 2022.
“We know them well,” Morgan Rielly, the Toronto defenceman, said earlier in the day. “We have played them enough in recent history that we have a pretty good feel for what they are as a team. This is a good test for us.
“We aren’t where we want to be but it is a chance to get back on the right side of things. We are aware of what we are capable of.”
This was the second of four meetings between them. The Maple Leafs’ next game is Wednesday at home at Scotiabank Arena.
If they were worried about their recent slump, it didn’t show.
“In terms of adversity, I don’t think this is anything,” Rielly said. “It is just the start of the season. This is how it goes. You go through ups and downs. I don’t think anyone is reading too much into it.”
With an eye toward boosting secondary scoring, Keefe moved Knies to left wing on the first line, dropped Max Domi to centre on the third and David Kampf to centre on the fourth.
Nicholas Robertson, who had five goals and six assists in nine games with the Toronto Marlies, was called up from the AHL and started to the left of Domi. He had an assist when Jarnkrok scored to tie it at 4-4 in the second period.
Defenceman Jake McCabe missed his fifth game in a row with a groin injury and Simon Benoit was called up from the AHL to take his place. Benoit appeared in 78 games with Anaheim in 2022-23 and played well in his first appearance for Toronto.
In the end, the Maple Leafs were able to pull off an unlikely victory.
“It was fun,” Knies said. “It shows our resilience. I don’t think anyone was pouting after the first period. Everyone was excited to get back out there and prove to everybody that we could do it.”