This was the third and final matchup between these two Canadian teams battling for a playoff spot. The previous game still stings, with the Jets easily beating the Leafs 5-2 on Tuesday in Winnipeg. It was payback time. More importantly, it was slump busting time in a game the Leafs desperately needed to win. Well…
1) The Leafs are 15-12-2 and this was one crazy game. They could have quit. With 4 unanswered goals against in what was a horrendous 2nd period, it’s what we would have been used to. But they didn’t. Point gained or a point lost? You decide.
2) First shift, first touch of the puck for Lupul and he puts in a sweet backhander after a turnover by the Jets in the defensive zone. Kadri’s back pressure on the play and him getting the puck to Lupul can’t get unnoticed.
3) Orr and Thorburn went for a rematch from Tuesday night, and Orr got the better of Thorburn in what was a good tilt. Later on, Bogosian fought Holzer, who wanted a tilt with Kane. Holzer was picking his gloves up when Bogosian flew in and started throwing. He got the instigator – tough noogies, even if defending a star player on his team.
4) Holzer looked nervous tonight and nothing said it better than the start of the second period when he gave the puck away after losing sight of it. The puck ended up coming right back through the crease and Scrivens made a whale of a save on Miettinen to bail out his D-man. Holzer wasn’t the only poor defenseman on the night (Gunnarsson, Liles) but he was the most obviously poor one.
5) Huge pressure at the start of the second period by the Jets. The Leafs couldn’t get the puck out of their zone and James Wright scored after a great setup from Kyle Wellwood. You could smell it a mile away.
6) Lupul played the vast majority of his comeback game on a line with Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin. They were flying tonight and were by far the best offensive trio in this game. Their passing, cycling and positioning in the offensive zone was top notch.
7) Miettinen swatted a loose puck from a Scrivens save out of the air and scored to further emphasize Winnipeg’s dominance in the second period. Way too many turnovers by the Leafs in the 2nd. Turnovers cost the Leafs another goal shortly thereafter as a lose puck bounced in front of Wheeler who buried it on a backhand. Gunnarson, Scrivens and Phaneuf made a mess of a what should have been a routine play behind the net. Wheeler got another after a great rush into the zone led to a wraparound goal. My god, it’s 4-1 Jets.
But wait, Kulemin scores on a rocket shot and Lupul made his comeback even more memorable (after another good feed by Kadri) to give the Leafs life going into the 3rd. Phiew! To be quite honest, I thought this game was baked, served and eaten towards the end of that period.
8) Third period, Bozak made a sublime pass to Kessel, who used his blazing speed to break into the zone and score top shelf to tie the game. Remember in seasons past when the Leafs were done like dinner after a blowout like the one they suffered in the 2nd? Silly me, of course you do. Apparently, that’s not the case anymore. Jets had been closing down time and space really well in the second and shutting down the neutral zone. You could see the Leafs start to use a number of saucer passes through the neutral zone in the third. They also got back to hitting a lot more, which always helps you get back into a game that’s getting away.
Important note, Reimer relieved Scrivens in the 3rd period.
9) This highly important game ended up going to the shootout, where posts were many, many shots were taken and many more posts were hit. Luck was not had.
10) Without goals from Lupul and Kulemin the second period of the game would have, quite probably, been one of the worst periods of Leafs hockey I have ever witnessed. And that’s saying something. However, they did come to play with a minute and 25 left in the period and got back into the game with two quick goals. Maybe we’ll look at this game as a turning point for the team. Just maybe. Probably not but… mentality is everything.