Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe had strong remarks for the Tampa Bay Lightning after Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He accused the Lightning of “manipulating the officials” after his team won Saturday.
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper took time to respond to this claim on Sunday. Though it seemed he had no idea what exactly the opposing coach was even getting at. “Manipulating the referees, I’m not sure what that means,” Cooper said.
Keefe's comments were in response to an incident involving Toronto's Auston Matthews and Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos. The two superstar goalscorers dropped the gloves following a hit on Lightning star Brayden Point.
Those two players never drop the gloves. In fact, that was Matthews' first career fight in the NHL. Furthermore, it was the first fight in NHL history involving two players who have scored 60 goals in a season.
Cooper defended Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, who also fought. Cooper used his team's belief they were going on the power play to argue his point. “So, our two best power-play players, I don’t think they would ever sit there and take themselves off the power play unless they thought something unjust had happened,” he said.
At the end of the day, any ref manipulation on Tampa's part didn't really work. Toronto won Game 3 in overtime thanks to a shot from defenseman Morgan Reilly. The Maple Leafs now lead the series 2-1.
The Maple Leafs can take a commanding 3-1 series lead on Monday when the puck drops for Game 4. If they win, Toronto can win their first playoff series since 2004 on Thursday by winning Game 5 as well.