Spezza's speech fueled Leafs' Game 5 comeback: 'When he speaks, we listen'
Veteran forward Jason Spezza didn't find the scoresheet in the Toronto Maple Leafs' Game 5 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday, but he still profoundly affected the game's result.
Spezza gave a moving speech in the dressing room during the first intermission to help fuel Toronto's comeback, according to his teammates.
"He's a great leader, and he's been around, and he knows what it takes, and when he speaks, we listen," William Nylander said postgame, per David Alter of The Leafs Nation.
What message did Spezza deliver?
"Just that it wasn't good enough, and we have to start battling in this game. That was the gist of the message," Nylander added. "We got our legs going in the second."
The Maple Leafs got off to an abysmal start. The Lightning led 2-0 after the first period and seemed to be in control, producing 78.1% of the expected goals, per Natural Stat Trick.
But Spezza's speech clearly kickstarted the club, as Toronto outscored Tampa 4-1 the rest of the way and controlled 74.1% of the expected goals in the final two periods.
"Spezz really spoke well, and I think everyone as a group understood that as each game passes by, the margin for error gets smaller and smaller," captain John Tavares said.
Spezza was a healthy scratch in the first two games of the series in favor of Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds, but he hasn't come out of the lineup since.
The 38-year-old is in his 19th NHL season and still seeking his first Stanley Cup ring.
The Maple Leafs lead the Lightning 3-2 and have a chance to secure their first playoff series win since 2004 in Game 6 on Thursday night.