Another night. another game in Montreal. The Toronto Maple Leafs were carrying series momentum into their back-to-back with the Montreal Canadiens, but fatigue has to be a factor when there’s this much on the line.
Could Carey Price pull a win out of thin air? Or would the Leafs’ relentless firepower win the day? ...Well, you know how it ended now, so let’s get to the GIFs.
Were the Leafs...taking it easy out there during those first five minutes? (No, seriously. You tell me.) Game 4 started sloooowly, even with Jason Spezza out there looking for some biscuits to go with his jam.
What a pass by Brooks to break Spezz free pic.twitter.com/6A9gyCZwNA— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 25, 2021
I’ll chalk it up to both teams being pretty worn out after playing back-to-back playoffs games. But the quiet never lasts, and the first power play went to the Leafs as Jesperi Kotkaniemi got caught slashing Mitch Marner.
Marner draws a slashing call as he walks in on Price pic.twitter.com/jr3COwzLQQ— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 25, 2021
The Leafs kept the puck moving, but the power play goal eluded them. And once the teams were back at even strength, it didn’t take long for Cole Caufield to storm Toronto’s net.
It’s at moments like these that you’re glad to have a Jack Campbell in the house....
Campbell bails the Leafs out as Caufield makes his way through pic.twitter.com/T41c3aRc1u— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 25, 2021
Even as the Leafs picked up the pace in the last eight minutes, Carey Price played like an MVP, and Jon Merrill just kept blocking shots to beat the band.
And then came double trouble of the penalty kind. T.J. Brodie got a slashing call for this play against Eric Staal – who, to be fair, had been frustrating his line all period.
Brodie called for the slash on Staal pic.twitter.com/H9D2Lc1MhY— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 26, 2021
And less than four minutes later, there were TOO MANY MEN ON THE ICE? How does that even happen in the playoffs? William Nylander served the penalty and got to watch as Alex Kerfoot came up with an astonishing short-handed chance...only to be turned away by an equally astonishing scorpion-kick deflection by Nick Suzuki.
Suzuki saved a goal there as Marner had a tap-in off the Kerfoot feed shorthanded pic.twitter.com/77MLU27yc6— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 26, 2021
Were you happy the Leafs left the ice with obvious momentum? Disappointed that they hadn’t converted it into goals yet? Or just a little numb from watching Price stand on his head again, with the 0-0 score mocking your faith?
Ah, but those never last, either.
William Nylander is scoring like, a goal per game right now. Did you know that? He got one past Price less than a minute and a half into the second, thanks in part to this sweet primary assist from Alex Galchenyuk.
Clutch moves by Galchenyuk as this leg raise keeps him onside as he goes on to get his first playoff point as a Leaf pic.twitter.com/jYkRSUX61A— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 26, 2021
Almost exactly 11 minutes later, Spezza decided it was breakfast time. He got his second goal of the playoffs off Galch’s second primary assist of the game.
JASON SPEZZA 🚨— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 26, 2021
VINTAGE BEATS PRICE! pic.twitter.com/XtFjbpkeTV
The Habs were understandably frustrated by this time, so Ben Chiarot took it out on Auston Matthews, and paid for it with a cross-checking penalty. They’ve both been to this clown show before, so don’t start.
May you find something in life as enjoyable as Auston Matthews finds Ben Chiarot taking stupid penalties. pic.twitter.com/lC7TeSmphs— Doug Doucette (@DeuceDoucette) May 25, 2021
And for the power play, Speznasty, still a bit peckish, teamed up with fellow Action Grandpa Joe Thornton to give you this.
JOE THORNTON 🚨— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 26, 2021
FIRST LEAFS PLAYOFF GOAL pic.twitter.com/If8HeMC1AV
Did the refs miss a call on this play? Kerfoot isn’t even trying to pretend he isn’t tripping Paul Byron in this clip.
But make-up calls aren’t just for Tim Peel, so don’t act shocked that Adam Brooks got called for roughing during this kerfuffle with Brett Kulak.
Imagine trying to explain to someone watching hockey for the first time why Brooks got a penalty but Kulak didn't pic.twitter.com/9gPrDA5mxc— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) May 26, 2021
Unfortunately for the Canadiens, they couldn’t convert on that power play, either. And this time, the Leafs went into the locker room clearly in control.
Canadiens getting torched by the 2006 NHL all star team— god dammit Dutch (@AnthraxJones) May 26, 2021
When you’re leading 3-0 with 20 minutes left to play, you may have to resist the temptation to try to sit on a lead. It helps when Soupy is minding your net.
Jack Campbell. Laser-locked focus pic.twitter.com/P9tcj3Bt8q— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 26, 2021
Jumbo, looking for the Gordie Howe hat trick, got into two minutes’ worth of trouble with a bit of senior-on-senior violence against Staal.
Pulling Price for the extra attacker was quite literally the last trick in the book, and the Habs almost didn’t fail...
Zach Hyman missed the empty net— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 26, 2021
WHO STOLE HIS POWER! pic.twitter.com/XexxDKljQQ
...until Alex Galchenyuk pulled out his last knife.
ALEX GALCHENYUK 🚨— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) May 26, 2021
Dagger Empty-netter pic.twitter.com/8prtr5CRSe
The game in bullet points:
#Leafs blank Canadiens 4-0 in Game 4 to take 3-1 series lead. Toronto can close things out Thursday in Toronto.— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) May 26, 2021
First playoff shutout for Jack Campbell
William Nylander goes 4-for-4
Contributions across the board
And the Alex Galchenyuk Revenge Tour is in full effect
Sportsnet wraps it up with a free history lesson:
Jason Spezza & Joe Thornton— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) May 26, 2021
First 37 & 41 year-olds to score in the same playoff game since the Red Wings Brett Hull & Igor Larionov in Game 4 of the 2002 Stanley Cup Final#LeafsForever
And here’s a final thought:
Imagine telling someone five years ago that the Leafs were playing a playoff game where Jason Spezza and Joe Thornton were two of their goal scorers, and Alex Galchenyuk was their first star— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) May 26, 2021
There you have it. Can the Leafs put it away on Thursday night? Only time will tell. Until then...enjoy.