Season ends; overhaul expected

Game 82 had a bit of everything that was symbolic of the Leafs season.

Grab a lead, give it right back.

Make a costly turnover, and the puck is in the back of your net.

And the opponent leaves with two points.

Such was the case on Saturday night as the 2014-15 campaign to a merciful end for the Maple Leafs with a 4-3 loss to Montreal. In traditional fashion, the Leafs and Habs played an entertaining game emblematic of their historic rivalry.

Among the crowd in the capacity-filled arena, there were several bleu, blanc et rouge sweaters interspersed among the normally all blue and white gathering. The 19,308 fans on hand were engaged in duelling chants of “Go (Leafs | Habs ) Go!”

The Leafs got off to a good start to try to foil Montreal’s bid to clinch the Atlantic Division. At 3:59 of the opening period, Phil Kessel came around from behind the goal line to the right of Carey Price to score on a wraparound.

Now, what was that part about giving the lead right back?

Air Canada Centre announcer Andy Frost was chiming out the scoring on the goal when David Desharnais capitalized on a miscue by Nazem Kadri who was unable to corral the puck.

Total time of the Leafs lead: 16 seconds.

But the Leafs responded. Casey Bailey , playing in his sixth game since being signed from the University of Penn State, deflected a point shot from Dion Phaneuf to restore his team’s lead.

Phaneuf registered the 400th point of his NHL career with the assist, but the acknowledgement on the scoreboard was met with a smattering of boos. “I like to think those were the Habs fans,” said Phaneuf after the game.

The Leafs started the second period on a power play that was unsuccessful. As the penalized player, Alex Galchenyuk stepped out of the penalty box, he helped create an odd man rush that lead to some some tic-tac-toe passing by the Habs, eventually resulting in the tying goal from Tomas Plekanec.

Toronto once again regained the lead after Tyler Bozak converted a nice backhand touch pass from James van Riemsdyk. Kessel started the play with some gritty work along the boads, kicking the puck to JVR for the second assist.

But the game turned when the Leafs – appearing headed to the second intermission with the lead – gift-wrapped a goal for the visitors. Goalie Jonathan Bernier played the puck outside his crease to pass it to Jake Gardiner, who had an easy lane to skate out of the zone and kill the clock. Instead, Gardiner lost the handle, turning the puck over to a waiting Jacob De La Rose who beat Bernier on the short side.
There were 8.9 seconds remaining on the clock. Typical Leafs.

The third period was scoreless although Price had to be sharp on breakaways by both Kadri and Kessel.

Overtime settled nothing. The best chance in the extra session came off the stick of Lars Eller on a shorthanded breakaway, created when the Leafs seemed to be caught flat footed after a scoring chance of their own, seemingly indifferent to Eller clearing the zone and skating the length of the ice.

Neither Bozak nor Lupul could score in the shootout that was decided in two rounds. Galchenyuk was credited with the shootout winner.

After his final game behind the Leafs bench, interim coach Peter Horachek outlined the team’s blueprint for the immediate future.

“There’s a new approach for next year, there has to be a better condition, a better attitude and approach to how we do things,” Horachek said. “You have to have a respect that Toronto deserves, and should have a competitive team.”

“Do we want to be competitive, or do we want to build something and win a Stanley Cup?
That’s the change that we have to make.”


Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca

Follow TMLfans.ca on Twitter: @Rob_DelMundo