20 minutes into this game and it seemed like the team had learned nothing. Both Panthers goals came as a result of terrible defensive rotation as, first Kubina and then McCabe and White, were caught brutally out of position.
Turns out that the Leafs were trying out a different strategy. Instead of waiting until the third period to play their worst 20 minutes they decided to get it out of the way early. VeTo (copyright BoO's Duff) shut the door the rest of the way as the Leafs fought their way back into the game. In the first minute of the second Jason Blake scored his second of the season after a brilliant pass my Mats off of the post. You could see how happy he was to score as he immediately turned to the crowd to celebrate.
Then, on a two man advantage, the goat-du-jour Bryan McCabe took a nice feed from Antropov and fired a wrist shot high over Anderson's glove. He actually played a much better game last night. He simplified his defence and got back to laying the body including his patented double ass-cheek check in the third. Maybe he will respond well to all of the negative attention.
And that set the stage for a controversial ending which has left the Panthers whining about the injustice of it all. On a scrambly sequence, Stumpel hit White from behind (blatant penalty) who reacted by jumping Stumpel, dropping the gloves, and then realizing that it might be best to not fight someone 6 inches taller than him (memo to Horton: learn from White). Sure, that was probably a penalty but both came so quickly it was nice to see the refs use some discretion in recognizing that things had evened out. Jay Bouwmeester used the confusion to break in on Toskala who had to make a diving save with his stick to preserve the tie. The Leafs broke down the ice and the revelation of the season, Nik Antropov, buried the juicy rebound from Pavel Kubina's point shot with under 30 seconds left.
So once again the Leafs respond after a poor performance. Is there anyway to make them think that their last game was terrible without them actually playing poorly? Any hypnotists out there? The roller coaster ride is 8 games in and does not look to be abating any time soon.