Leafs: Three is the Magic Number
Three straight wins on the night of Kadri's third...three thirty-goal seasons for Kessel...three Leafs threatening to finish with thirty...three games to go in Burke's third season, with three separating the Leafs and New York--it's the magic number right now here inside the Blue and White Bubble...
With everything Brian Burke's Maple Leafs have worked for this season on the line, the resolute bunch in Blue and White left it all on the ice Saturday night in Ottawa, downing the Sens in their own barn in a thrilling contest that saw the visitors emerge with its third straight win.
Phil Kessel made it three straight as well...thirty-goal seasons, that is, by opening the scoring after the twelve-minute mark. Picking up his own rebound in tight as he dashed in on Craig Anderson, his deft hand-eye skills and dogged determination put the Leafs up by one in the first period.
Nazem Kadri threw a puck at the net from down low in the corner that tricked Anderson, and found the back of the net to double the lead in the second. It was the rookie's third of the season, and his confidence, as well as his coach's in deploying him in key situations, is becoming increasingly evident.
Jason Spezza capitalized on a breakaway in the dying seconds of the second stanza to cut the lead in half. After notching it at two a side with a hard point-shot on the powerplay, it was time to settle in and get the job done, or think about polishing the clubs, as anything less than a win would effectively end the team's playoff drive in Ottawa.
In an unprecedented act of chivalry, Jesse Winchester apologized to Clarke MacArthur on the way to the box after catching him unintentionally with a high stick. The resulting powerplay produced Tyler Bozak's 14th of the year after a review concluded Joffrey Lupul's shot in the slot caromed off his skate for the go-ahead goal. Not sure about you, but as much as you want to commend the player for the gesture, it takes a touch of the drama out of the rivalry Ontario hockey fans have cherished since the days of Domi, Tucker and Sundin.
Matt Lashoff left in the third after being driven head-long into the end boards by Zach Smith, who received a five minute misconduct, and will likely have a phone call from Colin Campbell to contend with.
Hostilities renewed, Nikolai Kulemin caught up to linemate Mikhail Grabovski with his 29th of the season to seal the deal, and end another chapter in the story of the Battle of Ontario.
With three games to go, Carolina and the Rangers both have more points, and a game in hand. They also both have Sunday games; Carolina vs Buffalo, and New York vs Philly. The way it looks in 24 hours from now could have a significant bearing on the Leafs' chances of engineering an upset and claiming that 8th spot.
Tuesday night is the next time the Leafs play, with the Capitals visiting, after defeating Buffalo in overtime. Once again, the Leafs will need to find the extra gear to keep the drive alive...
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