The stuff of cardiac arrests. Please keep the 4-1 jokes to yourself. What a crazy game of momentum swings and refereeing-fuelled rage.

1 – The Leafs were making a mess in their defensive zone coverage on the first few shifts, coughing up an early lead when Chris Connor jumped on a pass wide open on the back door, and nearly conceded another one before they found their way into the game.

The powerplay Peter Holland drew was a saviour for that reason. It seemed to settle the Leafs in when this game could’ve easily gotten away on them, with their confidence fragile and the team under siege early. A Dion Phaneuf point shot on the powerplay (dedicated to Jeff O’Neil), perfectly placed for JvR tip home, was pivotal as a response early in this game.

2 – The Leafs’ lines 1 through 4 were able to generate a strong cycle shift or two in the first. Sure is handy being able to roll four lines while applying pressure and keeping the foot on the pedal, even if it was temporary.

It was also refreshing to see some point shots directed at the net by the Leafs. Any one else notice that second chance opportunity develop for Kessel, at 5 on 5 no less, with 8 minutes to go when Phaneuf just threw a puck at the net and there was a fortuitous bounce to the right side of the net? In general, the Leafs were directing more shots at the goal, with 10 shots on the period – an improvement for this team.

3 – The Leafs took the first of several leads with nine minutes to go in the first. To his credit, Mark Fraser laid down a good shot block to spark the transition. In a bizarre occurrence, the Penguins didn’t have enough players on the ice for an extended period in a error I haven’t seen since atom hockey. Kadri took off the other way, and with Olli Maata scrambling off the bench, he buried far side on Fleury who didn’t even drop into the butterfly.

4 – A dream start to the 2nd period saw Fleury and Letang fumble a pass behind the net for JvR to jump on and jam into the net.

Letang looked like he was playing a spot of shinny the very next shift as Bozak tossed him off the puck and found Kessel for a rocket of a one timer wide open in front. Bang bang, it’s 4-1 and the Leafs looked on the verge of a rout as they chased Marc Andre Fleury into a hissy fit in the tunnel.

5 – A hooking penalty by Gunnar gave the Pens their opportunity to find their way back into this game. Giving the likes of Letang, Crosby and Malkin PP opportunities is the one thing the Leafs needed to avoid to keep this game safe. Always tough when the refs are looking for game management calls in these situations. In any event, Malkin rocketed one home from the circle.

A few minutes later, with Peter Holland in the box for something or rather, the Pens got a bounce off Dion Phaneuf’s stick. When it rains, it pours for the PK; that’s poor puck luck. Holland was more or less stapled to the bench after that minor penalty and only played four and half minutes tonight.

6 – The game turned into a full-on track meet of traded chances as the second progressed, something that continued in the third period despite the close score. The Pens were pinching with reckless abandon and playing balls-out aggressive. This meant some chances the other way for the Leafs. Toronto left Zack Zatkoff untested for much of the 2nd despite him handling just about every shot poorly. Finally, Kessel threw a puck at the net which the Pen replacement goalie kicked out. Kudos to Bozak on crashing the net and going to the right spot on the back post. 5-3 Leafs, and yet another scoreline that should’ve been enough.

7 – Completely garbage call on Smithson for taking a man into the boards in the early third. Another game management call against the Leafs was followed up by a stupid JvR loose-arm holding penalty – that he deserved – to put the Penguins on a 5 on 3. The one thing the Leafs couldn’t do was take dumb penalties outside the defensive zone, but some of those calls…. Wow. After a lost draw, Bozak lost his stick, putting the Leafs down to 2.5 men against Malkin, Kunitz, Neal and Crosby. The end result was predictable.

8 – The Leafs generated no shots on goal on their one PP of the period (there were a couple of big blocks). They were not coping with firehose level of pressure by the Pens and looked shell shocked, but the biggest refereeing crime this evening came on the 5-5 tying goal. Bernier had no chance to make the save after getting pitchforked into the net by Evgeni Malkin. One of those goals where you just shake your head; nothing you can do when the rules aren’t called as they’re designed.

9 – For the Leafs part, they got brutally outshot (17-1) in the third period even by Leaf standards. I’m not going to talk about the no-shot record the Leafs set tonight because they actually threw a puck on the net that the shot keepers missed. CHANGES EVERYTHING. They weren’t testing a weak goaltender because they couldn’t when they spent all period under siege and botching breakouts. What do you make of a game like this from the defensive standpoint? It was a nightmare for both teams. For the Leafs, the third period was some of the worst hockey they’ve played this season.

10 – Some curious tandems out there at 4 on 4 in OT. Carlyle seemed to be just holding on for dear life awaiting the shootout. The Leafs are a threatening 4 on 4 team, but Carlyle was likely scared shitless by his team’s play in the third. McClement – Kulemin for several minutes isn’t going to win you the game at 4 on 4.

Bozak was stopped, Clarkson pulled the same move he always pulls, and Bernier got schooled by Malkin and Crosby (understandable) in the shootout. The Pens win, but the Leafs grabbed the loser point.

Well, I guess it’s good that the Leafs bumped some scoring slumps at the individual (JvR, Kessel, Kadri) and team levels. 4 goals at evens is a relief on one hand. There was some things to like about the Leafs’ first and second periods, but the team’s third period was embarrassing. Refereeing helped ensure this game didn’t go quietly into the night, but the Leafs’ play was on its way to ensuring this game was far from shut down anyway; brutal breakout attempts against the Penguin pressure prevented the Leafs from ever finding their way back into the game at 5-5.

The optimistic take: A point on the road against a good team is a point on the road against a good team.


Scoring Summary
1:57:00PITChris Conner (1) Wrist shot - ASST: Andrew Ebbett (1), Brandon Sutter (6)1 - 0 PIT
5:09:00TOR PPG - James van Riemsdyk (10) Tip-in - ASST: Dion Phaneuf (8), Cody Franson (13)1 - 1 Tie
11:41:00TORNazem Kadri (7) Snap shot - ASST: Mark Fraser (1)2 - 1 TOR
0:13:00TORJames van Riemsdyk (11) Wrist shot - ASST: NONE3 - 1 TOR
0:42:00TORPhil Kessel (13) Snap shot - ASST: Tyler Bozak (4)4 - 1 TOR
8:27:00PIT PPG - Evgeni Malkin (5) Slapshot - ASST: Kris Letang (2), Sidney Crosby (19)4 - 2 TOR
15:20:00PIT PPG - Kris Letang (5) Tip-in - ASST: James Neal (7), Chris Kunitz (12)4 - 3 TOR
19:55:00TORTyler Bozak (4) Wrist shot - ASST: James van Riemsdyk (8)5 - 3 TOR
3:46:00PIT PPG - James Neal (7) Snap shot - ASST: Evgeni Malkin (24), Kris Letang (3)5 - 4 TOR
7:41:00PITEvgeni Malkin (6) Wrist shot - ASST: Sidney Crosby (20), Chris Kunitz (13)5 - 5 Tie
2M. FraserD0111006500-0:00:002:32:0017:59:00
3D. PhaneufD0112214201-2:39:003:18:0025:46:00
4C. FransonD0111023410-2:19:000:00:0019:01:00
11J. McClementC000-101220071%0:00:003:55:0018:43:00
12M. RaymondL0000001200-1:20:000:36:0016:59:00
15P. RangerD000-1020100-0:00:002:22:0021:52:00
21J. van RiemsdykL2133253200100%2:37:000:49:0022:20:00
22J. SmithsonC000020300040%0:00:000:53:0010:07:00
23T. SmithC0000002000-0:00:000:00:003:29:00
24P. HollandC000-122010033%0:00:000:00:004:55:00
28C. OrrR0000004000-0:00:000:00:003:39:00
36C. GunnarssonD0001202100-1:07:003:08:0024:44:00
41N. KuleminL000-2012000-0:00:002:47:0016:41:00
42T. BozakC112301100146%2:12:001:39:0024:37:00
43N. KadriC101021200022%1:45:000:13:0019:08:00
44M. RiellyD0000001200-1:49:000:00:0021:20:00
71D. ClarksonR0001023100-1:37:000:00:0017:34:00
81P. KesselC1013060011-2:20:000:00:0022:47:00
34J. Reimer0 - 0000:00:00
45J. Bernier43 - 480.896065:00:00
75 %
Even Strength
45 %
Special Teams
35 %
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Alec Brownscombe is the founder and editor of, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He's published five magazines on the team entitled "The Maple Leafs Annual" with distribution in Chapters and newsstands across the country. He also co-hosted "The Battle of the Atlantic," a weekly show on TSN1200 that covered the Leafs and the NHL in-depth. Alec is a graduate of Trent University and Algonquin College with his diploma in Journalism. In 2014, he was awarded Canada's Best Hockey Blogger honours by Molson Canadian. You can contact him at