TORONTO -- Dion Phaneuf needed some extra time to get over his overtime gaffe.
Even though the Toronto Maple Leafs captain knew he would have to explain his risky manoeuvre that cost his team a heartbreaking defeat, he stayed in a backroom well after the Boston Bruins skated to a 4-3 win in extra time.
Instead, Phaneuf let some of his teammates face reporters. Toronto blue-liner Cody Franson came to the defence of his captain. So did James van Riemsdyk, James Reimer, Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner.
"The game happens so fast and that's the risk he decided to take," Franson said. "I have no problem with a guys trying to be aggressive.
"He was trying to make something happen."
Will the fans be as forgiving now the Maple Leafs are down 3-1 to the Bruins in Toronto's first playoff foray in nine years?
Not too long after the game, a video from the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast had made the rounds on the Internet. What the clip appeared to show was April Reimer, the wife of Maple Leafs netminder James Reimer, giving a death stare in the direction of actress Elisha Cuthbert, Phaneuf's fiancee.
At least, that was the conclusion most immediately made.
But Mrs. Reimer was swift to correct those hoping for a juicy significant-other spat. She said on her Twitter account that she glared at a fan nearby who made a rude remark:
Phaneuf takes the heat
Meanwhile, back in the Maple Leafs dressing room, when Phaneuf emerged from his post-game workout to get another from reporters, he put on his Maple Leafs ballcap and he took the heat.
"It's a bad mistake and a bad time to make," he said. "I take responsibility for it.
"And it's unacceptable."
Good for Phaneuf for being a standup guy. But he was right. It was an unacceptable play on his part.
The Maple Leafs had been burned by a couple giveaways and a lost faceoff that resulted in three goals in the Bruins' 5-2 victory in Game 3 at the Air Canada Centre. The other non-empty net Boston goal was off an odd-man rush.
Toronto has to play safe, smart hockey against these opportunistic Bruins. This play from Phaneuf was neither smart nor safe. He went for the big hit on Nathan Horton and missed, catching only his opponent's stick.
Horton was able to chip the puck by to send his linemate David Krejci down the wing. Krejci fired a shot between Reimer's blocker arm and his body for the game winner and his series-leading fifth 13:06 into overtime.
"You can't afford to make mistakes that lead to odd-man rushes," Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle said. "We turned the puck over deep in the corner and then we pinched and gave them an odd-man rush and they scored a short-side goal to beat us and that's kind of a dagger.
"It feels like a dagger after the effort that was put forth by our group."
How true. These playoff-inexperienced Maple Leafs jumped out to a 2-0 lead. But again they went to sleep for an extended stretch in the second period to allow the Bruins to catapult themselves to a 3-2 advantage.
Full marks to the Maple Leafs for pulling themselves even with a Clarke MacArthur goal near the end of the second period. He was a healthy scratch the past two games and appeared to have lost his confidence. But Carlyle showed faith in the veteran, put him back in the lineup and he came through with a big goal.
The Maple Leafs were the better team in overtime. Matt Frattin hit the post a few shifts before Krejci's game winner.
"It hurts," said Lupul, who was incredible with a goal, an assist, and a crucial first-period shot block.
He also went after Bruins giant-sized captain Zdeno Chara a couple of times, drawing a power play midway through the third period.
Losing the way the Maple Leafs did is all part of the playoff-learning curve for an inexperienced group. Sure, it hurts now and it's tough for the long-suffering Maple Leaf fans to digest.
But just ask the Bruins about how much learning the right way in the playoffs can hurt. They went through their own three years ago, when they blew a 3-0 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers.
I think they did okay the next spring.
Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC
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