The Toronto Maple Leafs fell to the New Jersey Devils 5-4 in overtime after making a fortuitous and furious late comeback in the third period. Carl Gunnarson and Patrick Davis each notched their first career NHL goals although neither one was anything to write home about. The Maple Leafs' rookie actually opened the scoring before the ZZZ line (Dainius Zubrus - Zach Parise - Travis Zajac) began their complete domination of the Deadline Line (copyright 6rick6) of Alexei Ponikarovsky, Niklas Hagman, and Matt Stajan. Aided by Tomas Kaberle's continued deficient defence and Ian White's poorly timed giveaways the Devils got the game to 3-1 while racking up the majority of their 11 points on the night.
The three goals could have been a lot more if not for some stunning saves by Jonas Gustavsson. However, the need for those saves came because of extremely lazy play on the part of the Maple Leafs. James Mirtle thinks the move was made to get Toskala some ice-time before sending him out to be sacrificed against Vancouver but I think it was to send the team the message that he wasn't going to allow the rookie to be hung out to dry. Whatever the motivation it certainly did not seem to work. At least, until the Devils put together a terrible third period:
Then there was that third period. A third period performance worthy of being recorded on a DVD titled, "How to Blow a Lead in a Hockey Game." Sure, the second period had some sloppy moments but that was far and away better then the garbage that was the Devils' third period. In recent play the Devils have had some bad games, but that third period stunk up worse than a dumpster full of dirty diapers on a hot summer day. Instead of continuing to pressure the Leafs on offense and dominate that neutral zone, the Devils struggled to make clearances in their own zone. The offense couldn't keep the Toronto squad honest or consistently to attempt to expand their lead with Vesa Toskala the NHL's leading sieve in net. More and more Devils were subjected to longer shifts in their own end, leading to more and more botched clearances, botched passes, and a cycle of the Leafs collecting the puck in the neutral zone to go back on offense. To call it sloppy would be an insult to the adjective sloppy.
- John Fischer, In Lou We Trust
The Leafs capitalised on that tentativeness to even the game. Frankly, looking at the game's scoring chances as tracked by Under The Helmet of Slava Duris, they were lucky to survive the second period. They were outchanced 12-4 and if not for a few great saves by both goaltenders Parise might have racked up 6 to 10 goals depending on which coach you believe. Then in the last five minutes a hilarious Bryce Salvador turnover allowed Ponikarovsky to get the Leafs to within one. That was soon followed by Matt Stajan fighting in front of the net for a rebound to pot the equaliser with 90 seconds left. Unfortunately, tying the game up meant that the Leafs had to go to overtime which led to the first of two prescient comments:
Oh well, time to lose in the first or last minute of OT or a SO
The Leafs actually survived the first three and a half minutes of overtime before Luke Schenn had to take a penalty to prevent Parise from getting his hat trick. That's when NostraPPP was matched by JuniorDamus:
Leafs on the PK. NHL prepares to officially post OTL in TOR column.
Twenty-odd seconds later and the game was over. The maddening thing was that Jersey called a time out and somehow Ron Wilson still managed to put Garnet Exelby out on the ice for the penalty kill. I guess he was so pleased with the way that Jamal Mayers had performed that he thought it might rub off on Exelby. Wrong.
In terms of the advance stats, here are some quick observations. Definitely take a look at them and let me know what else you see.
- Corsi - The Kulemin - Bozak - Kessel led the forwards as the rest were mostly overrun at even strength. Of course, the fact that the White - Kaberle pairing also led the team shows that this is just one aspect of analysing a team's play. Those two were directly responsible for the first two goals.
- H2H - As noted above, the Ponikarovsky - Hagman - Stajan got lit up by the ZZZ line until the last five minutes of the game.
- EV face-offs - This one was surprising since there were significantly more taken in the Devils' zone. I'm not sure what to make of it to be honest.
And to finish off, I just wanted to take a second to acknowledge how ridiculous Colton Orr's goal really was in the context of this year. First, Jamal Mayers of all people saw Colton Orr bursting through the neutral zone (yes, I just wrote that sentence) and he hit him with a neat flip pass. From Orr's point of view, he skillfully knocked the puck down to his stick and fired his shot past Martin Brodeur. I don't know who was more surprised: Colton Orr, Martin Brodeur, or everyone in the game day thread. I'm going to go with Orr.
The point leaves the Leafs 9 points out of 13th in the conference. The funny thing is that if they ever made those points up they'd also be back in the playoff race. Since neither one seems likely to happen it looks like the goal this year has gone from avoid competing to a playoff spot, to staying out of the lottery, to staying ahead of the Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes. This is what it's come to it appears. FML.