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.
The Boston Bruins keep flipping the script.
In Wednesday’s case, it swerved to a “Cinderella” story, as little-known forward Frank Vatrano scored two of Boston’s three goals – including the overtime clincher – as the B’s beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 (OT).
Here’s his first goal of the night:
While this is his overtime game-winner:
It wasn’t a perfect night for the 21-year-old, yet it may have been a convincing one.
The Bruins continue to begin a month on a sour note before ending up with impressive sprees.
October: 0-3-0 start, finished month with four straight wins and victories in six of seven contests.
November: 0-3-0 start, losses in four of five; currently on a four-game winning strek with victories in five of six.
Boston faces a challenge in closing this month out against the Rangers on Friday, and it’s possible that this trend may continue, as they begin December with a three-game road trip through Western Canada.
More than anything else, the safest bet with the Bruins is for ups and downs.
Controversy just seems to find the Pittsburgh Penguins. Credit Sidney Crosby & Co. for responding with a win on Wednesday.
Crosby generated two pretty goals, including this slam-dunk slapper:
… While Evgeni Malkin‘s overtime-winner stood as the Penguins managed a 4-3 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues tonight.
(You can see Malkin’s OT-clincher in the video above this post.)
Will this win and strong performance from Crosby silence murmurs about his relationship with Mario Lemieux? Probably not, yet it likely turns the volume down in some ways, including killing the “Is he struggling because of distractions” storyline.
You know, at least for a little while. Maybe.
Claude Giroux isn’t the nastiest, most physical captain the Philadelphia Flyers have employed. Even so, he can be feisty at times.
Wednesday showed that, as he clearly wasn’t happy with an earlier Nick Leddy hit, and eventually got the New York Islanders defenseman to drop his gloves.
You can see the fight and the check that inspired that scrap in the video above.
It’s the fourth fight Giroux has been a part of, with his most recent adversary being may his most bitter rival.
Not a heavyweight bout between Giroux and Leddy, mind you, but sometimes it’s amusing to soak in such a rare sight.
Update: The fight may have inspired the Islanders more than the Flyers, as they bested Philly 3-1 on Wednesday.
Carter Hutton is getting something that might make fellow Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne jealous: goal support.
Still, there was at least one moment where Rinne was likely happy to be on the bench, as Hutton was left flipping during this collision with Buffalo Sabres forward Marcus Foligno:
Remarkably, Hutton remained in the game.
If you’re the type who loves adding to your “hockey players are tough” files, put this under the goalies section.
Check out this incredible shot of that moment:
Update: The Predators held off the Buffalo Sabres to win 3-2.