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[Recap] Game 3/82: Toronto Maple Leafs v. Montreal Canadiens

Well, look at that, somebody's got a goalie. Granted, it's just been two good performances but after a pre-season that had the Chicken Littles in TO (read: the media and plastic fans) scrambling for cover from the falling sky.

Sure, it's just two games but it should keep the ridiculousness of TSN asking Marty Biron, Philadelphia's goalie, if the Leaf's situation was distracting. Then again, it's Toronto and that's just the nature of the beast.

As it was, Saturday's game provided a nice bookend to a great family feast as Kaberle slammed home the winner just minutes before my cousin was rushed to the hospital to deliver a healthy baby boy. Putting off his own birth so the rest of the brood could watch the Leafs complete their comeback? He's already a dedicated Leafs fan.

The Leafs penalty kill continued their excellent performances as Steen, Stajan, Gill, Kubina, Antro, and Woz did the heavy lifting. It was a shame to see them give up their first goal against but after the debacle that was last year's PK it's like night and day. Of course, your PK is only as good as your goalie and Toskala made some stupendous saves especially in overtime when Sundin's stupid penalty put them down a man.

The Leafs found themselves down 2 late in the second period because of their atrocious defensive zone coverage. I don't know how professionals can struggle so hard to stick with their man. Whether it's on the rush or while pinned in their zone the Leafs find a way to leave at least one man with an abundance of time and space. This is one of the reasons that I was disappointed to see so much chopping and changing during the pre-season. You would have liked to see the team trying to sort our their issues over the last handful of games rather than as the season goes forward. It's already cost them a point against the sens and gifted a divisional rival another.

On the bright side, despite the penalty in overtime Sundin escapes too much criticism since his 3 assists helped turn a frustrating reminder of last year's matchups against the Habs into a nice end to a great day. He set up Ponikarovsky, who was reunited with Antropov and Sundin as the Maurice Blender landed on "tried and true", for two goals to erase the deficit. He first picked up a Huet blunder behind the Habs' net and made a quick pass out to the Ukranian and then in the third he stripped Andrei Markov of the puck and centre to Ponikarovsky who, rather than wind up for a slapshot, fired a well placed wrist shot past Huet's blocker. Finally, after getting out of the box in OT he set up Kaberle on the Leafs' own 4-on-3 powerplay for the team's first marker on the man advantage.

All in all, minus the running around that led to the three goals, it was another strong outing from the buds. I felt after the two games against the sens that similarly determined efforts against lesser teams would yield positive results and the Leafs delivered in the type of game that too often sees them pack up their bags. After only winning 4 times last year when trailing after two periods they already have one. Now, if they could only figure out what is wrong with Tomas Kaberle the team would be on its way.

The Final Word

Beyond the thin silver lining of gaining an overtime point in this 4-3 loss to the Maple Leafs, a trend has become apparent from game 2 this season and game 82 of the last. The Canadiens have an inability to sustain their leads against never say die teams such as Toronto. The process of gaining the knowledge of how to go about it, is what experience is all about.

The word character is often brought forth to describe teams, such as last nights Leafs, who are able to come from behind and snatch victory from the throes of defeat. But character is the wrong word for teams coming back in such manner. The proper word would be determination.

Character is something else altogether, and that is what the Canadiens were lacking last night.

In a rare display of self-control, I’m not going to throw a tantrum about this. Firstly, because it’s early October and if I waste all my bilious ranting now I won’t have any left by February; and secondly, because if every game they lose is lost in this fashion, that’d be a fairly good season. Well, providing they win every now and then too.

A tip of the cap to Alexei Ponikarovsky who potted a couple and the entire Leafs team for coming back in the NHL's first ever must-win game three of an 82 game season. Some of us don't want to Wait 'Til Next Year if we don't have to.