The Toronto Maple Leafs are losers of their first two post-Olympic games and yet they have put two points in the bank.
That makes them .500 in the two games. Thank goodness for overtime losses.
The Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, the NHL's longest standing rivals, went head-to-head on a Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada
and, almost as if scripted, it went right down to the wire.
Actually, a little beyond.
An overtime goal by Max Pacioretty, his second of the game, gave the hometown Montreal Canadiens a 4-3 overtime win
over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
It was kind of a weird defeat for the Maple Leafs. Why?
Let's start with Toronto's Phil Kessel being penalized late in the third period for flipping the puck over the boards. It happens, but Kessel rarely takes penalties and this one was both untimely and unnecessary. His team survived the minor and Kessel even managed a scoring chance when he emerged from the penalty box in overtime.
Then, in OT, Toronto was dinged again with a rarely called minor when goalie Jonathan Bernier stormed out of his net to track down a loose puck and prevent Montreal's Danny Briere from getting to it first. Bernier was penalized with another delay of game minor.
On this power play, Pacioretty scored his second goal of the game to give his team the victory. It was a blast from the slot that eluded Bernier, who has been handed the starter's job, but has now given up nine goals in two games.
You have to wonder if the Maple Leafs coaching staff will reach out to backup goalie James Reimer Monday when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle tried to take the high road after the game.
"We take the point and we move on," Carlyle said. "Things didn't go for us the way we would have liked, but we played a lot better tonight than we did in Long Island [Thursday]. We grinded and got a lead.
"We were down and came back. We found a way to create offence and I thought we had the majority of puck time from the second period on. So there were a lot of positives in the game."
The Leafs were determined to be better defensively than they have been for most of the season early in the game and actually kept the shots on their net low through the first 10 minutes. That, however, did not prevent the Canadiens from taking the lead with two quick goals with Alex Galchenyuk and Pacioretty striking 1:24 apart.
Toronto's accent on defence pulled the rug out from under its offence. The visitors didn't get their first shot on Montreal's goal until 14:38.
"We didn't have jump," Carlyle said. "We were standing around and didn't get involved. We let them do what they wanted to do, but we turned the tide of the game and we're going to take the positives out of it."
Montreal's bang-bang goals seemed to wake up the Maple Leafs, who finally found the net with a quick flurry of shots. And while the Leafs did not abandon their defensive game, they opened things up a little offensively and it paid off.
Van Riemsdyk made it 2-1 with a crafty tip of a Phil Kessel direct to the Montreal net for his 25th goal of the season.
Then, after a decidedly dull second period, Toronto really opened things up in the third.
At first the Maple Leafs were met with resistance as Montreal goalie Peter Budaj made a magical saves, but his trickery succumbed to the pressure of Toronto's top line of Kessel, van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak.
First, van Riemsdyk tied it at 5:23 when he fought off the checking of Montreal defenceman P.K. Subban and slipped a greasy backhander through Budaj's legs. Then, 2:15 later, Kessel, the NHL's second leading goal-scorer, broke in alone and directed a shot just over the pads of the Montreal stopper.
Third time lucky
With Toronto defenceman Tim Gleason off for interference midway through the third, Subban had three straight slap shots from the point and he connected on the last one; his first goal in 14 games.
Arc of the diver
Not long after Montreal tied it 3-3, van Riemsdyk was tripped. That was the good news. The bad news was referee Kyle Rehman ruled JVR embellished his fall and sent him off, too. It was a wasted opportunity for the Maple Leafs.
Clarkson engages early
Toronto right-winger David Clarkson made his presence felt on his first shift, first jostling with Montreal's left-winger Max Pacioretty on the faceoff and then drilling Subban hard into the end boards.
Unfortunately for Toronto, he was barely noticeable for the rest of the game.
The Maple Leafs inserted tough guy Frazer McLaren into the lineup for the first time since Feb. 8 in case Montreal's enforcer, George Parros, acted up. That meant defenceman Paul Ranger sat out. Ranger has played very well of late in games in which Toronto dressed him as the seventh defenceman. He had a goal against the Islanders Thursday.
Holland back up
The Maple Leafs recalled centre Peter Holland from the AHL Marlies. It was also noted that Holland spent five days in hospital with a foot infection from 'lace bite.' The injury occurred Jan. 30 when he wore a new pair of skates.
Back to accessibility links