Before we begin, it probably bears mentioning that Canadian hockey fans were the real winners tonight.
That being said, it was bound to be a better night for some Canadians than others. Could the Toronto Maple Leafs win their first playoffs series since 2004? Or would the Montreal Canadiens live to fight another day? And who would get this party started first?
That last part is going to take awhile. I hope you get comfortable.
The Canadiens start rushing the net early, clearly trying to grab the advantage. It started with a near-miss by Phillip Danault, followed by a lot of pressure with Shea Weber, Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki, and Tyler Toffoli all in the mix. Jack Campbell kept them out, but the Leafs seemed like they were scrambling to keep up.
Then the Habs nearly gave up all that forward impetus when Josh Anderson got caught tripping William Nylander.
If you were expecting a big push, you got it...from Montreal. Weber and Danault got big short-handed chances that Campbell neatly stopped.
Habs have started hot— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 29, 2021
Jack's been relied on already pic.twitter.com/eaJK0qkooz
Nice opportunities, to give credit where it’s due, but they were just highlights from a buzzing Habs penalty kill that gave Soupy an unexpected workout. Jason Spezza finally got a shot on Carey Price as the man advantage was about to expire, but it mainly served to put a fine point on the fire drill that went before.
Four and a half minutes later, the Canadiens got their own chance when Alex Kerfoot got whistled for high-sticking Jeff Petry.
Kerfoot literally could not see— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 29, 2021
Fortunately for the Leafs, their PK was ready to rock, and the Habs’ disappearing power play...well, disappeared.
#leafs things that so far are good:— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) May 30, 2021
- jack campbell
- penalty kill
That Jack Campbell part is your fancy stat for this frame, because you see, Campbell’s net sees the puck as a series of zeroes and...zeroes. And given Montreal’s 15-9 advantage in shots on goal, that’s good enough for now.
The period started off as the Campbell and Price Show, yet again. (Come to think of it, the NHL should probably make this a cartoon series, except that it might seem too subdued next to the real live-action guys.)
The Leafs got another chance to fire up their scary power play when Weber took a delay-of-game penalty for a puck over glass – and again, Spezza went hunting, only to have his shot blocked by Petry. But the general effort looked lackluster, and it nearly ended in disaster in the form of a Toffoli-led 3-on-1 as Weber escaped the sin bin.
But Campbell kept doing things like this, and won’t it be interesting if he wins the GIF wars over Price for this series. It could happen, I’m saying it now.
Jack Campbell sticks with Toffoli the whole way pic.twitter.com/2U95r3ev9U— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 30, 2021
Both teams were clearly getting frustrated by the amount of sound and fury that was still adding up to nothing.
Is this the moment when you really need your best players to be your best players? Or something like it? William Nylander, Nick Foligno and Alex Galchenyuk were working on it.
Foligno and Galchenyuk fight for the rebound off the Nylander shot pic.twitter.com/5KPyIf72Lj— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 30, 2021
Time flies when you’re not sure what’s supposed to happen next, and it certainly whizzed by while both teams tried to magic up a shot on goal, out of...somewhere. It didn’t help the Leafs’ cause that Jake Muzzin had to leave the ice in a hurry.
Here is what took Muzzin out. Looks like he pulled something pic.twitter.com/hWWYh1CFCZ— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 30, 2021
Much has been said about Auston Matthews’ awkward silence during this series, and the NBC crew has pointed out that he may be working too hard away from the puck and running out of energy when he finally gets in with a chance.
That point came home again and again this period – which ended with each team getting only six shots on goal, with the same scoreless tie, and with the definite feeling that something had to give.
Did you ever get the feeling that a big game was about to be won or lost on the power play? It had to be a good omen when the Leafs got the man advantage early in the third, right? ...Right?
Danault sits for grabbing the stick— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 30, 2021
Leafs PP pic.twitter.com/HqqTvQn3bx
Matthews took it to the house, and it looked like big news for the blue and white, for a moment.
And then there was this.
Nylander called for goaltender interference pic.twitter.com/toNNqGByxY— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 30, 2021
The Nylander penalty was a disaster waiting to happen, and Corey Perry never met a disaster he didn’t like.
Yes, Toronto challenged, and rightly so – but the call on the ice held up, and Marner’s gaffe completed the Rule of Three.
Now the Leafs were down one and defending a 5-on-3. Toffoli found the perfect opportunity to end his own playoffs scoring drought, and suddenly it was Leafs 0, Habs 2.
Hope springs eternal, even when it’d be a lot cooler if it just took a seat, and it came rushing back when Ben Chiarot tried slashing Marner, for a change. And Marner worked hard to make up for accidentally opening that hellmouth earlier.
But as it turns out, you really just need to give Speznasty the puck more. Possibly a lot more. You tell me.
And a little more than five minutes later, T.J. Brodie brought things even, about two seconds after he collected a Chiarot giveaway.
The Leafs take the game to overtime, and Hope must be pretty pleased with itself right about now. Anything can happen, right?
Were you really ready for more extra minutes? On the one hand, a sweet Round 1 victory within the Leafs’ grasp, after 17 long years. On the other...well, everything else.
I’m not sure who shoved the cork back in the bottle, but after that insane rush for all the goals in the third period, the game regressed to its own mean – which is to say, a goalie doing work and the minutes resolutely ticking away. Throw in one more player leaving early with an injury, for good measure.
Perry went to the locker room after taking a shot off the hand pic.twitter.com/6OHSBlPtn1— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 30, 2021
But this time, the Leafs got aggressive, taking shot after shot on Price and looking to grab control of their own destiny again.
Brodie trying to make it two for the night pic.twitter.com/k9rNkG8bIx— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 30, 2021
Rielly and Matthews doing damage— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 30, 2021
The Habs were gassed and beginning to look used up.
And then Jesperi Kotkaniemi did this.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi.— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 30, 2021
It's going to Game 7 pic.twitter.com/LO6SixumU4
Takeaway? How about don’t let the Habs go to overtime. I got your takeaway right here.
The Canadiens are coming back to Toronto. Game 7, folks. Game 7.