The Leafs decided they wanted to celebrate Grabovskiâ€™s birthday by looking (for the most part) like the Oilers of old. Grabo was Mark Messier and Phil Kessel played the role of the Great One. But as the time was ticking down, we saw the lesson of old creeping its ugly head once more. Â You don’t let such an experienced team back in a hockey game. One goal, one mistake is enough to change momentum.
2 â€“ EVERYONE except the refs thought the Leafs had scored in the opening minutes of play when Bozak scored from a Kessel feed. Lupul didnâ€™t even touch MAF, but the refs make a phantom call and itâ€™s advantage Penguins. Crazy call.
3 â€“ Good jump early in the first by the Leafs, using our speed through the neutral zone. Kesselâ€™s whole line was speeding through Pittsburghâ€™s defense and creating a lot of chances off the rush.
4 â€“ Kadri laid out Martin with a big hit and that sparked the game even more. Vitale hit Kadri in the neutral zone and Phaneuf dished some punishment immediately after. This is hockey! You got the feeling the Leafs deserved a lot more from the first as the period ended 0-0.
5 â€“ The second period started with much more of the same as Grabo puts his foot on the gas, breaks in alone and hits the post. Our speed created a lot of problems for the Penguins and space for the Leafs, as it really forced the Pens D to fall back and lose their gap control, but it all came off fast exits from our own zone and much improved first passes.
6 â€“ Grabo scored from a great heads up play by Phaneuf as he beat his man on the outside cut around the net, got his pass blocked, got it back and passed it to Grabo who finally finishes one off. The Leafs defence, including Phaneuf and especially Schenn, actively looked to jump into the attack tonight.
7 â€“ Happy birthday Mr. Grabovski! Kulemin goes to the net and draws the coverage, Grabo receives the pass from MacArthur and snipes it top shelf. MAF had no chance on the shot as he was completely screened by Kuli. Kulemin had two phantom assists tonight, both that play and a nice stick check that led to the MacArthur 4-1 goal.
8 â€“ Penguins get one back at the end of the period, and Iâ€™m sure Ron Wilson wasnâ€™t too happy about us letting a team back in a game they should be no business being in. It looks like no big deal in the third as the Leafs score twice in 19 seconds. First, Bozak drills a precision rocket stick side high on the PP and then Grabovski takes the puck away on the forecheck and passes to a wide open Mac who shoots it in. At this point, this one looks over and it should’ve been.
9 â€“ Once again, the Leafs played disciplined hockey throughout 60 minutes of play, giving up only one powerplay opportunity which the team killed. The Leafs’ PP goes from being historically bad to going a perfect 17 for 17 in January. Figure that one out. Our powerplay meanwhile got us what should have been a decisive two goal lead.
10 â€“ I canâ€™t remember a game when the Leafs dominated as much as they did tonight. Everything clicked. The “only” thing I didnâ€™t like were three, if not all four, unnecessary goals which threatened the overall impression. You donâ€™t let a team like the Penguins back in it. Still, it’s a young team, they will learn from this. The Pens did little things that kept them in this game. Letang saved a goal, the refs denied us one, Fleury was out of this world, but it goes without saying they also had incredible amount of luck, with no better example than the game tying goal that went in off of Malkin’s shoulder. Just amazing.
10b – Gustavsson had his brilliant moments, and his Gus-of-old moments tonight. The Sullivan (of course) goal shouldn’t go in, and he fumbled the puck on the 4-3 Vitale goal. That was a play, if Gus smothers like usual and gets a whistle, the comeback never happens. Then again, the comeback probably doesn’t happen if Gardiner doesn’t fall over and cough up the puck to Sullivan. Tough call for tomorrow, but the gut says Wilson gives Reimer a shot in the return leg.