Let’s face it, the Leafs’ season isn’t about wins and losses anymore.
Nevermind talk about a victory, which the team hasn’t had in seven games now, after dropping a 4-1 decision to Florida on Thursday. How about a lead? Toronto’s streak of futility has been extended to 23 straight full periods – 468:58 to be exact – of playing time in which they have not led in a game.
While scoreboard watchers checked their mobile devices for updates on the ‘tank bowl’ between Buffalo and Arizona as the McDavid sweepstakes heat up, the few Leafs highlights at Air Canada Centre came courtesy of a pair of 23-year-olds.
Sam Carrick, playing in his 14th career NHL outing, collected his first career goal. Meanwhile Casey Bailey, a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as the best player in U.S. college hockey, suited up for his first-ever NHL game, five days after being signed as a free agent from Penn State University.
Carrick’s goal came in the third period after Morgan Rielly led a rush into the Florida zone. Rielly made some nice maneuvers around the Florida defence before feeding Carrick, who made no mistake with a one-timer past Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo
“I just went to the net with my stick on ice and he (Rielly) found me for an open net,” Carrick said. “It was definitely special. Hometown, being a Leaf fan growing up, dreaming of scoring in this building, it was a dream come true.” Carrick is from Stoufville, just north of Toronto.
Meanwhile Bailey logged 11:49 of ice time, and was even used sparingly on the power play. “It was definitely a lot faster and the guys were bigger, but I had fun out there,” said the Anchorage, AK native. “As I stepped in here for game time is when the nerves really started hitting me. I think throughout the game it got better and better, so it’s nice to get that first game out of the way.”
The game was virtually decided within a 30-second stretch in the second period during which Jonathan Huberdeau and Steven Kampfer beat Leafs netminder Jonathan Bernier with pinpoint laser shots.
When Florida’s Brandon Pirri beat Bernier five-hole to extend Florida’s lead, Leafs coach Peter Hoarchek made the move to go with backup keeper James Reimer. It marked the seventh time this season that Bernier has been pulled from a game.
Pirri rounded out the scoring with an empty-netter late in the third period.
There was a bit of a buzz late in regulation after Richad Panik tussled with Perri, eventually throwing the Florida player’s stick into the stands. Panik said the toss was unintentional, but he received a ten-minute misconduct, nevertheless.
The stick was caught by a young boy seated in the sixth-row platinum seats. Security was called in to briefly take the stick away, but only ‘for the safety of the other patrons’ as mentioned on Twitter. The souvenir was returned to the fan, ensuring that at least one ticketholder went home happy.
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(Sam Carrick photo credit: Zimbio.com)