If this was wrestling, the Leafs would be wearing the biggest of belts right now. Things would be real and they would be cool. Unfortunately, it’s hockey, so the Leafs do not get a belt, but they do get two big regulation points in a scrappy victory over the league’s first place team.
1-0 Leafs (William Nylander goal)
Joe Bowen once, or perhaps more than once, referred to William Nylander as “wee Willie Nylander” and that’s what we’re going to call him from here on out. Wee Willie Nylander gets things going in the first period.
The goal here is the classic case about why people are always yelling about faceoffs – from time to time, they produce a moment of magic like this. Auston Matthews wins the draw, gets the puck back to Jake Gardiner on the point, receives the puck once again while facing his own goal, picks out Wee Willie Nylander and then all of a sudden, the puck is in the back of the Tampa Bay Lightning net. A beautifully executed play and it’s 1-0 good guy’s.
2-0 Leafs (William Nylander goal)
Wee Willie Nylander again! On a breakaway! 2-0 Leafs!
3-0 Leafs (Jake Gardiner goal)
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Always nice to see Jakey on the board.
3-1 Leafs (Alex Killorn goal)
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) February 13, 2018
Today we learned that the Tampa Bay Lightning call one of their players Killer, which is offensive because a) killing is bad, and b) it’s Doug Gilmour’s nickname. Late in the second period, Alexander (his actual name, not that stupid nickname) picks up the rebound of his teammate Brayden Point, who was inexplicably named to the all-star game and we’re still not okay with it. Regardless of all our complaining, we can’t change the fact that he scored Tampa’s first goal and made it 3-1 late in the second.
3-2 Leafs (Nikita Kucherov goal)
NIKITA KUCHEROV BRINGS THE LIGHTNING WITHIN 1! 3-2! pic.twitter.com/FQgaJGptZK
— NHL Daily 365 (@NHLDaily365) February 13, 2018
And on the eighth day, the floodgates were officially open. I’m not very well versed in my biblical studies, but that seems like the kind of thing that might appear there. Under a minute into the first and the NHL’s top point-getter came to play once again.
This goal left us with a sense of existential dread, challenged our will to live and forced out a few tears. But that’s what happens when you play good teams: their good players come to play. And it was up to Toronto to try to combat that.
3-3???? (Yanni Gourde goal)
Yanni Gourde with a deflection and the Lightning tie the game at 3-3. Two goals in the first two minutes of the third. Gourde's 21st of the year. pic.twitter.com/G9CZU6KC4Y
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) February 13, 2018
There was a part of you that hoped and dreamed and prayed that the Leafs wouldn’t blow this lead, but let’s get real, things had been going a bit too smoothly recently. There hadn’t been a whole lot to get frustrated about, and it seemed like if there was an opportunity for blowing a three-goal lead at home to the league’s top team, well, this would be the time to do it.
You’ve got to feel for kind-of-rookie Yanni Gourde, who’s getting very little recognition on a star-studded lineup. Or don’t feel bad for him at all, because he gets to live in Florida and play pro hockey on a very good team.
Frederik Andersen did not have a chance on this one, and somehow, someway, the Leafs see their three goal lead evaporate and we’re right back where we started from.
4-3 Leafs (JVR goal)
It seems insane at some times that James van Riemsdyk is the name on the tip of everyone’s tongue as trade bait, but really, how can you want to get rid of this guy right now? Second on the team in goals, first on the team in green mouthguards, and clutch as hell. Quantify that, nerds.