The Leafs are fresh off a trade deadline season where they unloaded every player they could. The team comfortably sits somewhere in the range of finishing 4th to 6th-last in the NHL. It’s a cold March night and the Leafs are playing the Florida Panthers. Why were you watching this game? Why was I watching this game? Who knows. But in about as boring a circumstance as you could create, Toronto loyalists who tuned into this game had their faith rewarded. Tonight in the home rink of the Panthers, hilarity ensued.
I’ll spare you the mundane details of this game. There was only one real story tonight, and that’s all you need to know. Here’ what went down:
- Late in the first period, Roberto Luongo made an awkward save on a Leo Komarov shot them left him smarting. Luongo finished the period, but it was announced to begin the second period that he would not return.
- Enter Al Montoya. The Panthers back-up played pretty well in the second. He let in a powerplay goal from Tyler Bozak, but was perfect aside from that. All things considered Florida carried the play against Toronto and left the period up 2-1 with just 20 minutes separating them from a big 2 points.
- In the third, things got really interesting. Nazem Kadri muscled his way to the net right off the hop and was able to bang in the tying goal just 22 seconds in. He crashed into Montoya on the play though, and suddenly all hell broke loose.
- There were a couple delays early on in the period. Would Montoya have to leave the game? With Luongo unable to return, would the Panthers actually have to turn to an emergency netminder? Who would that be? Before you knew it, Scottie Upshall and Derek Mackenzie were heading to the locker room looking at the possibility of putting on the pads. Or might it be former NHL journeyman and current Panthers goalie coach Rob Tallas? Could Luongo return? He showed up suddenly at the bench in dress clothes and started to talk with Panthers coach Gerrard Gallant and Panthers GM Dale Tallon.
- As it turns out, Montoya would be able to return. He was laboring hard though, and it didn’t take long for the Leafs to take advantage. Peter Holland banged in a weak rebound to give the Leafs the lead, and it looked like just about anything might beat Montoya at this point. Enter Rob Tallas, who showed up in full equipment on the Panthers bench. It looked like he might need to come in. Still though, Montoya journeyed on.
- But wait, there’s more! Suffering through half a period of confusion and fatigue, Al Montoya’s duties were relieved. Roberto Luongo of all people came out of nowhere to man the pipes for the Panthers. Luongo didn’t look totally fresh, but certainly looked to be in less distress than the battered Montoya. In an absolutely bizarre set of circumstances, Luongo would finish the game and the score would remain in tact. Final score: Leafs 3, Panthers 2.
I’m a supporter of tank nation, but if you’re gonna win a game you may as well make it entertaining. This one sure was. I don’t think I’m alone in saying I was hoping Tallas, or maybe even Mackenzie or Upshall would jump in to play goal for Florida. Still though, that was a pretty hilarious 20 minutes or so. It was a funny moment in a dark time for the Leafs, and under the circumstances, it was a win well worth it.
40 saves on 42 shots. Goaltending was the theme tonight for not just the Panthers but the Maple Leafs as well. Jonathan Bernier collects yet another Blue Warrior for Toronto this season.
- Okay, tank update: tonight’s Leafs win and Columbus loss means Toronto leapfrogs both the Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes to move from 4th to 6th-last. it’s not all bad though – Columbus has a game in hand on Toronto and Carolina has two. The Leafs still remain in contention for the 4th overall pick.
- The biggest win of the night comes courtesy of the New Jersey Devils who beat Nashville 3-1. Not only are the Devils now 7 points clear of Toronto, but the Predators have now lost 4 straight and are quickly losing their grip on the President’s Trophy. This of course is good because Toronto owns the Preds’ 1st-rounder this June.
- Joakim Lindstrom and Tim Erixon made their Leafs debuts tonight.
Lindstrom looked fine for what he is; Erixon did not look good. Not much is expected out of either player so I’m not going to spend much time analyzing their game. Hopefully at least Erixon, who is still just 24, can find a little bit of a groove though.
SEE YOU THURSDAY
The Leafs finish up their four-game road trip versus Tampa Bay two nights from now. The Leafs will face the Lightning at 7:30PM Eastern on Sportsnet Ontario.