That rumbling you hear coming from Lake Ontario is the sound of Maple Leafs fans getting into the playoff race.
The Leafs took down the Canadiens in Montreal tonight 5-4 on the strength of a four point night from Phil Kessel. Kessel had two goals and two assists while his linemate Tyler Bozak finished the night with two goals and an assist. The win gets Toronto to within four points of the eighth spot in the East behind Carolina and puts them one point ahead of Atlanta for 10th in the east, one point behind Buffalo.
Montreal got the early lead thanks to a goal from Jeff Halpern but the Leafs got it all back fast in the first period scoring three quick goals on tonight’s starter Alex Auld. Kessel’s two goals and Brett Lebda’s first goal as a Maple Leaf chased Auld from the game after just 13:02. Upon Carey Price’s entrance to the game, the Canadiens were able to mount a comeback and tied the game in the second period thanks to goals from Mike Cammalleri and James Wisniewski. Tyler Bozak would make sure Montreal got the lead back heading to the third scoring his first of the night.
In the third, the teams traded goals again as Tyler Bozak scored his second to give the Leafs a 5-3 lead. Max Pacioretty would make things interesting scoring a goal with under three minutes to play, but James Reimer would make it all hold up in the end for Toronto as he finished the game with 31 saves and another Leafs victory, their fourth in their last five games.
While it’s incredible to see the Leafs crawl out of the basement in the Eastern Conference and the thought of Toronto getting in the playoffs is thrilling (hey, who doesn’t want an insane, rabid fan base getting in the playoffs?) the dose of reality awaiting Toronto in the schedule is a bit of a drag.
With 21 games left to play, ten are at home and they aren’t easy. Two games each with Pittsburgh and Buffalo as well as match-ups with Philadelphia, Boston, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Washington, and Montreal. Their 11 remaining road games aren’t much better with trips to Detroit, Philadelphia, Carolina, Boston, and New Jersey among others. If the Leafs can battle through all that and still make the playoffs, they will have earned it and they’ll be battle tested and ready to go in the postseason.