Here is the exact moment when everything went wrong for the Toronto Maple Leafs last night. With the divison-leading boys in blue up 4-1 on the cellar-dwelling Ottawa Senators and about 21 minutes left to play in the hockey game, Sens defenseman Artem Zub tripped Toronto’s Morgan Rielly as he was entering the attacking zone while on a power play.
I’ll pause for a second, because you’re probably very confused. “Lauren,” you’re asking, “You said the Leafs were up 4-1 in the game when this happened?” Yes, I did. “And Toronto was already on the power play?” Yep, totally. “So, with one period left to play, they’re about to get a two-man advantage with a three-goal lead?” Mmhmm, you got it. “Oh dear god, how badly did they fuck it up this time?” Just wait and see.
Hilariously, it actually got better for the Leafs before it all fell apart. Auston Matthews got an easy little point-blank opportunity with the 5-on-3 to make it a 5-1 game and add to his league-leading 13 goals on the year. But Zub in that box came back to haunt Canada’s winningest team in 2021. First, right before the teams went off for the second intermission, a turnover created in the Sens’ zone with Ottawa still shorthanded led to a similarly simple point-blank goal for Nick Paul, making the score 5-2.
Then, in the opening minute of the third, Zub’s penalty expired and he instantly made everyone, particularly Rielly, pay for banishing him from the ice. This is the best and most devastating kind of breakaway, and it boded well for the Sens as they tried to get just their fourth win of the year.
Five minutes later, in the dying embers of a power play of their own, Connor Brown put one in the net past an overwhelmed Frederik Andersen, and even though the Leafs managed to survive with that one-goal lead for quite some time afterwards, they withered when Ottawa pulled their goalie. Evgenii Dadonov, the big signing from Florida, tied the game when he batted a deflected puck out of the air and by Andersen, ensuring his team would at least pick up a rare point of of this worst-vs.-first encounter.
But the Sens would not rest with just an OTL. Evgenii Dadonov—him again!—would complete the epic and improbable comeback with an overtime breakaway winner, probably the biggest goal Ottawa’s scored since 2017.
On the losing side, though, it was a goal that surely had the Leafs appreciating the silence of their building, and the fact that fake crowds don’t seem to have a “boo them off the ice” setting.
“We just gave the game to them,” coach Sheldon Keefe said in the postgame press conference.
So, uh, what happened here? I mean, probably nothing worth remembering for more than a few weeks of laughter. Regardless of how that one period plus overtime went, the Leafs still look like the best team in the North or close to it. Meanwhile, the Sens and their psychedelic -29 goal differential still appear multiple levels below where an NHL team should be, even if they’ve strung together back-to-back wins for the first time all year.
Still, look at this! Check out just how embarrassing it is that the Leafs couldn’t get two points.
Awful, awful stuff, and because it’s poor little Toronto, whose history of disappointments and failures is stacked higher than Joe Thornton can reach, this kind of one-off humiliation gets magnified and rolled into a “What’s wrong with these losers?” Canadian media cycle. All the Leafs can really do about it is try to decisively win their next two games against the Sens tomorrow and Thursday.
This still doesn’t beat the time last year that they lost to their own practice goalie, though.