After watching a string of unfavorable results put them two points back of a playoff spot, the Toronto Maple Leafs were a tad pissed on Sunday.
Okay, maybe more than a “tad pissed.”
Frustrations boiled over at practice yesterday when forward Joey Crabb and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson dropped the mitts, forcing noted mediator Nikolai Kulemin to jump in and break things up.
“We were just battling, it’s nothing much,” Crabb told the Globe and Mail afterward. “I thought he butt-ended me, he claims he didn’t. That’s fine, we were working hard out there, trying to get better. A quick little tussle and that was it.”
Gunnarson pleaded ignorance to the alleged butt-end, saying he wasn’t sure how the whole thing started.
“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “A battle drill, you know, we both kind of snapped. Stuff happens.”
“Me and Crabby always got battles going on in practice and sometimes we snap.”
Toronto had plenty of reasons to snap after how the weekend unfolded. The Leafs lost 3-1 at home to Montreal on Saturday, and games involving teams near them in the standings — Saturday’s Florida-Winnipeg game and Sunday’s Washington-Pittsburgh game — both went past regulation, meaning everybody walked away with points.
As such, the Leafs now sit ninths in the Eastern Conference with 51 points, one point up on the 10th-place Jets and two back of the eighth-place Capitals.
They’ve also got a crucial week coming up with a pair of home-and-home series: First against the surging Islanders (winners of three straight and six of 10) and the red-hot Penguins (winners of six straight.)