Down 3-0 to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs displayed their mental fortitude by coming back to win 6-3.
With one point from their previous three games, the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans could be forgiven for feeling a little nervous. With the team being inconsistent at best since the turn of the year, the Boston Bruins had overtaken them in the Atlantic Division standings.
As such, the last thing the Leafs needed was another loss on Saturday night, especially against a Montreal Canadiens team also closing in on them in the division. And yet a loss was exactly what they were staring at after one period, trailing 3-0 to their hated rivals.
However, rather than fall apart, the Leafs showed their mental fortitude in the face of adversity. Helped by some timely saves by Frederik Andersen, they slowly dragged themselves back into a contest which looked all but lost.
Auston Matthews started things off early in the second period, scoring his 29th goal of the season courtesy of a power play. He seems to enjoy playing against the Canadiens, with this representing his 10th goal in 10 games against them.
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Then came the highlight of Andersen’s night between the pipes, as he made four saves in quick succession. A couple of them were point-blank stops, to somehow keep the score at 3-1.
Tyler Ennis was next on the score sheet for the Leafs, with his eighth goal of the season coming with under two minutes to go in the middle frame. Also scored on the power play, it left the home side just one goal down as they entered the final 20 minutes.
As impressive as the Leafs’ heart and determination was, they still needed a little luck on the night. And it came courtesy of a crazy bounce which left Carey Price stranded, allowing the revitalised William Nylander to tie the game at 3-3.
What followed was a lot of tense moments for both teams. Would the Leafs’ efforts to get back into the game be all for nothing, or would the Canadiens be left devastated after giving up a three-goal lead?
However, there was still time for a couple of empty net goals, courtesy of Andreas Johnnson and a second score for Hyman. (Awarded after he was brought down on an empty net breakaway). While the final 6-3 scoreline might have flattered the Leafs, there is no denying they deserved the win.
The Leafs still have plenty of work to do. Certainly, coming back from three goals down is not going to be a regular occurrence, especially when the playoffs begin.
Regardless, the team still deserves a lot of credit for being able to fight back in the face of adversity, rather than just accepting defeat. If they can show this fighting spirit on a more regular basis, they may yet rediscover their consistency from earlier in the season.
Hyman received the game’s First Star, but was more than happy to share the credit around. As reported by the Associated Press via Sports Illustrated, he said:
"“Everybody contributed. It was one of our best team wins of the year to be able to come back like that.”"
Andersen wasn’t among the game’s Three Stars, but he still more than did his part to contribute to the comeback. However, he was just happy that the Leafs won, as reported by Sportsnet‘s Luke Fox:
"“We earned our bounces in the last two periods, and sometimes you get wins like that. We’ll take it.”"
In the 22 games prior to Saturday, the Leafs had been the very definition of a .550 hockey team by going 10-10-2. Fans will now be hoping the team is galvanized after beating the Canadiens, with the Buffalo Sabres next up on Monday night.
Aside from recovering after being three goals down, what was your main takeaway on Saturday night? Further, do you expect the Toronto Maple Leafs to make any more moves before the trade deadline? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.