This was a game that essentially meant nothing to the Penguins. They rested a handful of players; they’ll probably do the same again today against the Rangers, in an effort to get the regular season schedule over with before anyone else falls victim to the injury plague. It was a smart strategy, as not only does it make unlimited sense to give guys a rest before the playoffs, but the call-ups who did play were getting a chance to proves themselves, ultimately meaning there would be at least a few guys in the lineup with something to play for.
On the other side, this game meant the world to the Leafs. Toronto had two shots to make the postseason and waiting around to take care of business wasn’t on the menu. Their fans and media haven’t gotten any less insufferable in the four years since they’ve last made the postseason, so you knew they were going to try to get it done now.
And you know what? It all actually made for a hell of a game.
Phil Kessel finally broke through his Toronto glass ceiling, giving the Pens an early lead when he flung one past Fred Anderson.
When your first goal in 11 games is against Toronto…
JVR tied it 29 seconds later with a ridiculous goal…
After you see someone one-hand a puck out of midair to keep a play onside, you know he’s finishing. It’s the exact same thing as the baseball nuance when a guy makes a great play in the field and then leads off the inning with a hit. It’s basically a rule of nature.
The Leafs got a power play when someone let Tom Sestito on the ice and, of course, he then went and did Tom Sestito stuff — skating his body directly into the side of Fred Anderson’s dome.
Actually saw people defending Sestito on this play, which was mind blowing. He doesn’t jump if he doesn’t know exactly where he is. He may have been trying to screen Anderson, but he knows he’s making contact. The fact he hit him directly in the head is a direct result of Sestito being a total fucking moron. Can’t plead ignorance. Some guy named Curtis would have to replace Fred.
Anyway, the Leafs got the power play and they scored to go up 2-1. It was right here when you knew the Leafs were really going for it. They just lost their starting goaltender and didn’t blink.
The Pens would tie it later in the period when Jake Guenzel found Crosby in the slot.
No idea what angle that is, Curtis. Yikes.
Things were back and forth for the first five. Guentzel missed a wide-open net but since time is a flat circle, he scored on his next shift when his dump-in to the corner hit two skates and found the back of the net to put the Pens up by one.
That’s about the time when desperation set in and the Leafs took control of the game for good.
Of course. Of course, of course, of course, it was Kaspari Kapanen who would tie the game.
You just knew it was only a matter of time.
The Pens had one last gasp to tie the game up at four, but Curtis saved the day, stoning Crosby cold right on the doorstep…
Auston Matthews would hit the empty netter for his 40th on the season to send everyone home happy.
The Leafs finished dead last a season ago and now they’re in the playoffs. The difference maker, obviously, is Matthews. The Leafs still suck but Matthews puts them ahead of the other eight teams in the East who really suck. Only in Toronto could the worst season in recent history actually turn out to be the best thing that could ever happen to them. It’s also the best thing for fans of every other franchise in the league. Now we get Toronto fans in the postseason, at their peak highest level of blind optimism and annoyance, and get to watch as their hearts are inevitably ripped out of their chest because they think this team is actually good. Should be a blast.