Sometimes life comes at you in bursts rather than a steady dribble.
To illustrate: the Toronto Maple Leafs in their 4-3 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens in what was an eminently winnable game.
In Saturday’s date at the Bell Centre – the two teams separated in the standings by just two points – the Leafs opened the game with zero shots in 14:38.
By the time they got their first – a long slapper from rarely dangerous Jay McClement – they were already down 2-0 to goals from Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty, who had scored within 1:24 of each other.
But then they mustered six shots in a little over 2:30, and scraped back a goal through James van Riemsdyk.
In the third period, the Leafs potted a pair of goals in the span of 2:15 – first van Riemsdyk scooped up an errant pass from Montreal’s Andrei Markov, then pulled away from defenceman P.K. Subban to score his second of the game on a short-handed breakaway.
Then his running mate Phil Kessel sped in unmolested past Douglas Murray and Pacioretty to give Toronto a 3-2 lead.
It’s hard to argue they didn’t deserve it, having bossed the game after snapping out of their first period lethargy, but these two teams couldn’t hold a lead if it had a handle.
So it was the Toronto penalty parade began.
First, defenceman Tim Gleason was whistled for interfering with Montreal’s Brian Gionta, after he picked up a wayward clearing attempt and tried to forage into the Leafs end along the boards.
“(The referee) has to make the call, that’s what I’ve been told,” Gleason said.
The Toronto-born Subban managed to even the score on the subsequent power-play – his first goal in 13 games, followed by a Superman-ripping-his-shirt celebration that will have riled the Leafs – and with the clock winding down the final seconds of regulation, Kessel was shown the gate for clearing the puck over the glass in his own end.
The Leafs killed off the penalty, then, at 3:14 of the extra frame, the truly weird stuff happened.
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier conjured up a pair of remarkable back-to-back saves on Daniel Brière, and with the puck deep in Montreal's end, he shot out of the crease to beat Brière to Subban’s attempted stretch pass.
By the time he covered the puck near the left faceoff dot, Brière was right on top of him, and the referee’s arm was up.
“I’ve never been called for that, ever, I guess. I don’t even know what the rule is, how far you can actually get it and freeze it, it bounced right in front of me, that’s why I didn’t want to take a chance,” Bernier said afterward.
Sadly for the Leafs, rule 63 of the NHL rulebook couldn’t be clearer: “If the goalkeeper races out of his crease in an attempt to beat the attacking player to the puck and instead of playing the puck jumps on the puck causing a stoppage of play, this shall be a minor penalty for delay of game.”
The Habs weren’t about to waste a second opportunity to close out the game on the power play, although they needed a little luck to do so.
Subban’s stick broke as he shot, the puck caromed directly to Andrei Markov, whose instinctive pass to Pacioretty gave the American all the space he need to roof his 29 of the year and second of the night past Bernier.
After it was over, the Leafs were left to lament what might have been – an overtime point is handy, but against a divisional foe two points is essential.
“(The penalties) were all within five or six minutes of each other, I think, so it’s like ‘what the heck’s going on?’ But it’s part of the game. We got a point out of it, but obviously you need to get the two points, and maybe without the penalty I took we could have got the two points,” Gleason said.