Stars struck: Stamkos, Matthews brawl during Maple Leafs' win

Steven Stamkos and Auston Matthews go at it in lengthy brawl during Leafs' win (3:47)

Steven Stamkos and Auston Matthews at the heart of brawl between the Maple Leafs and Lightning in Game 3 of their series. (3:47)

TAMPA, Fla. -- A series of fights between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs broke out in the third period of Saturday night's Game 3. And the penalty sheet, after order was restored, resembled an NHL All-Star roster.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and Toronto star Auston Matthews, two players with multiple NHL awards and honors and a 60-goal season on each of their resumes, fought during the sequence, which delayed a critical game that Tampa Bay was leading, 3-2, at the time.

The Maple Leafs tied it at the end of regulation, and won, 4-3, in overtime to take a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference First Round series.

The celebration came long after a unique sequence of brawls more fit for a regular-season game. Play was interrupted for several minutes while officials sorted through a wild sequence that began with Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly pushing Tampa Bay's Brayden Point into the boards as the two battled for a loose puck.

The hit touched off several skirmishes, one of them involving Stamkos and Matthews. The two were sent to the penalty box for fighting, but they weren't the only stars who were flagged for their actions. Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov, himself a multiple NHL All-Star as well as a Hart Trophy winner as league MVP, and Ryan O'Reilly, a 2019 Stanley Cup champion with the St. Louis Blues, were also penalized.

"The fight, itself, that's a classic example of a veteran championship team like Tampa Bay manipulating the officials and taking advantage of a situation, right," Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe asked in his postgame news conference.

Rielly was initially assessed a five-minute penalty for boarding, but following a review, the officials ruled there was no penalty for the shove on Point, who skated to the locker room bent over in pain before returning in the closing minutes of regulation.

Later in his availability, Keefe gave his take on the Stamkos-Matthews end of the sequence, and was vocal in his displeasure at the result.

"The officials literally holding Steven Stamkos with one arm and his other hand -- with no glove on -- is punching Auston Matthews," he said. "Not the linesman, the referee -- who calls the penalty -- was holding Stamkos while this was happening."

Stamkos was less vocal during his availability, eventually chalking the sequence up to "playoff hockey."

Down a goal and outplayed for much of the night, the rough-and-tumble Maple Leafs battled back, though, finding a way to reclaim home-ice advantage. O'Reilly scored with a minute left in regulation, then won a faceoff that set up Rielly's goal at 19:15 of overtime that gave the Maple Leafs the win.

Toronto, which hasn't won a playoff series since 2004, is 0 for 7 in its last seven postseason matchups, including first-round exits each of the past six years.

"It wasn't the best game by us, but we did a good job of sticking with it," O'Reilly said.

Keefe also liked the way his team stayed the course, noting that in past years "we've lost this game."

Last season, in Round 1, the Maple Leafs lost to the Lightning in seven games.

"Give Toronto credit. They stuck with it. They get one at the end and one goes in for them in overtime. But I liked a lot of what we brought," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said, later adding that "we're still in this series."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.