TORONTO — Everything about the Toronto Maple Leafs blowing a 3-1 lead to the Boston Bruins in the third period of their game Thursday night reeked of familiarity.
All you have to do is think back to the Leafs’ Game 7 collapse in the third period against the Bruins in last season’s playoffs to know just what was running through the heads of fans in Toronto.
But last night a collapse didn’t happen. Instead, Nazem Kadri scored a power play goal in overtime to give the Maple Leafs a desperately needed 4-3 victory to keep themselves in the playoff race.
While Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said last season’s Game 7 failure never entered his mind during last night’s game, he provided a bit of advice for his team when things turned heavily in the Bruins favor in the third.
“I tell them to breathe. That’s been our catchphrase now,” Carlyle said. “Because you can’t do anything if you don’t breathe and that’s what’s happened to our hockey club is when we’re freezing, we’re just paralyzed. Just breathe. Just breathe. Take it easy, breathe. We’ll get through it. Do the things that you’re accustomed to doing. Believe in the system, commit to it, and just breathe. Relax.
“You can’t do anything tense. You can’t be all tensed up to play the game.”
It may have been just a regular season game, and one that didn’t really mean a lot to the Bruins, but everything about it was tense from the Toronto perspective.
A loss against Boston would’ve forced Toronto to run the table the rest of the way to have a hope of making the playoffs. Never mind all the psychological bogeymen that losing to the Bruins in such a fashion would’ve brought about.
Instead, the Leafs carry on and perhaps more “breathing” is what they need going into the final four games of the season. They can’t afford to lose now or else another collapse will be added to their legacy.
As promised, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin rocked a pair of custom skates in honor of Russian Heritage Night on Thursday.
On his right skate, he paid tribute to the United States with a custom design, and paid tribute to his home nation on his left skate while taking the pre-game warm-up prior to facing the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He’ll be auctioning off the skates, as well.
From CSN Mid-Atlantic:
The skates were painted by noted custom shoe artists Nick Avery and Polo Kerber, whom Ovechkin personally selected. The skates feature the U.S. and Russia flags as well as the Capitol Building and Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral.
Sidney Crosby has made news lately for his goal scoring and his use of the stick.
He speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt the other night, and on Thursday he delivered a slash to Senators defenseman Marc Methot, who has since not returned to the game.
The slash rendered a finger on Methot’s left hand bloodied and injured. It certainly didn’t look good as Method (calmly) skated to the bench.
There was no call on the play.
Updated: Methot won’t return to this game.
Toronto’s talented rookies were back at it again Thursday, as William Nylander and Auston Matthews combined to set up the Maple Leafs’ first goal versus the New Jersey Devils.
Nylander added the second assist on the power play goal, giving him 35 helpers on the season.
That’s significant for a couple of reasons: He extends his point streak to 10 games, which sets a new Leafs rookie record. And the assist reportedly secured him another entry-level bonus:
The Anaheim Ducks have been without goalie John Gibson for almost two full weeks because of injury, but head coach Randy Carlyle provided reason for optimism on Thursday.
Per reports, Gibson took part in practice and Carlyle has said that his No. 1 netminder will play again during the regular season. Anaheim has nine games remaining on its schedule.
That’s good news for Anaheim heading into the post-season.
While Gibson has been out, Jonathan Bernier has stepped beyond his back-up role and provided solid goaltending for the Ducks during the stretch drive — which should also be a bonus for this club with the playoffs quickly approaching.
Bernier has wins in six of his last seven starts. In nine games this month, he has only twice allowed three goals or more.
The Ducks have fought their way back into contention for the Pacific Division with a recent surge that has coincided with San Jose’s current skid — only four wins in their last 10 games and four straight losses.
Related: Career back on track, Bernier hopes he can re-sign in Anaheim