Many of hockey’s greatest games have ended in 6-5 scores. For example: Game Eight of the 1972 Summit Series, and all three games of the 1987 Canada Cup.
Now, Nazem Kadri’s overtime goal, that lifted the Leafs to a victory by the same tally on Thursday, is certainly not in the same stratosphere as the game-winners scored by Paul Henderson or Mario Lemieux in those respective international series.
But for hockey fans starved for offence from a league collectively struggling to score goals, the end-to-end thriller at Air Canada Centre was exhilarating.
At the 9-minute mark of the second period, the Leafs had vaulted to a 3-1 lead when Tyler Bozak – suiting up for the first time after missing 21 games with a concussion – sniped his second goal of the game.
Toronto seemed to have the game in hand when Frank Corrado beat goalie Frederik Andersen for his first goal in a Leafs uniform.
However, not to be outdone, Anaheim’s Jamie McGinn collected his second tally of the evening less than two minutes later. Then before the ACC patrons could break for second intermission beers, NHL iron man Andrew Cogliano batted the puck out of the mid-air for a goal as the Ducks scored twice in nine seconds.
The visitors drew even when Ryan Garbutt pounced on a Jake Gardiner turnover for a shorthanded marker.
Cue the 4-1 lead jokes. #TooSoon?
Things looked bleak for the blue and white after Brandon Pirri gave Anaheim the lead; the Ducks capping off a stretch of 9:23 during which they scored four goals.
But on a Leafs power play Connor Brown darted to the front of the net and converted a pass from Milan Michalek to square the affair. It was Brown’s first career NHL goal.
Kadri ended the game at the 41-second mark of overtime, matching a career high with his fourth point of the evening.
It was a contest enjoyed by players and fans, while at the same time generally frowned upon by coaches. Indeed Kadri said as much after the game: “I’m sure Babs isn’t a huge fan of these ones. But as players, they’re fun to play in. I’m sure there’s going to be a few d-zone clips tomorrow.”
Meanwhile Brown, ecstatic about achieving his milestone in front of family and friends, discussed his plans for his first goal puck. “I actually talked to (Leafs trainer Brian Papineau) about it. He gave me my first point puck, and then he said ‘if you get your first goal, we’ll make a little plaque for you.’ Obviously that’s something I’ll keep!”