While the Toronto Maple Leafs have yet to be mathematically eliminated from the post-season, their puzzling 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night certainly inches them closer to extinction.
When you cannot defeat the Winnipeg Jets in what could be your final home game of the season, then perhaps you don't deserve to make the playoffs.
While the Toronto Maple Leafs have yet to be mathematically eliminated from the post-season, they most certainly drove another nail into their coffin, dropping a 4-2 decision to the visiting Jets; a team that had already been eliminated from the playoffs and had nothing to play for.
The Maple Leafs had - and blew! - two leads in the game. After the Jets tied the game 2-2 late in the first period, the Maple Leafs wilted. They were severely outplayed in the second period and then in the third, with their season on the line, they played as though they were in a trance.
"It started with the end of the first where we give up a goal with two seconds left," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. "It just seemed like we were a flat hockey club from that point and we chased the game. We didn't seem to have any energy as a group. They won more one-on-one battles, for sure."
The Maple Leafs were booed off the ice by the frustrated fans, some of whom tossed their $12 glasses of beer on the ice. This was a game the coach should not have had to say a word to his players, who should have been pumped up by the mere fact they likely needed to win their final four games of the regular season to get into the playoffs.
Carlyle was asked to explain how his players could be so flat and he admitted he was mystified.
"I wish I had the answer," Carlyle said. "Is it a united lack of energy? Is it a night where we couldn't make two passes [in a row]?"
All season Carlyle has asked his players to keep it simple and get more pucks to the net. Saturday night, as they have for most of the year, the Maple Leafs squandered scoring chances by trying to be too fancy.
"I think we do overpass at times," Carlyle said. "If you look at the way the game is played, the teams that are having success keep it very simple. They don't complicate the game. At times we seem to want to complicate it. It's a one-goal hockey game we are better served to get the puck in and retrieve it through work ethic than versus trying the skill move."
Bolland lays it on the line
Veteran centre Dave Bolland played just 9:15. According to Carlyle he rolled his ankle a few times and the coach didn't want him playing with an injury.
"What Randy wants to do, he can do," Bolland said. "He's the coach."
Bolland said the reason his team lost was simple.
"We got outworked," Bolland said. "When they got the puck in deep they were hungry."
No Reimer's reason
Goaltender James Reimer had no plausible reason why his team was so flat against the Jets. Forced to start because No. 1 goalie Jonathan Bernier is injured, Reimer played just okay when his team needed him to be great.
"I have no explanation for how it appeared," Reimer said. "I could come up with a couple of excuses, but obviously it has been a stressful couple of weeks and maybe it just caught up with us. Maybe there wasn't much left in the tank. I'm not sure."
Quick start for top line
Right-winger Phil Kessel continued to inch toward his first 40-goal season when he gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead at 2:45 of the first period. He broke in two-on-one with centre Tyler Bozak and one-timed a perfect pass behind Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
Lead doesn't last long
A little less than four minutes later the Jets tied it on a goal by Bryan Little. The goal was preceded by a big rebound by Reimer and the Leafs' failure to clear the puck from the defensive zone when they had a chance.
Toronto's second power-play unit was having all kinds of trouble getting the puck up the ice, so in frustration, defenceman Cody Franson drilled it into the Winnipeg zone causing Pavelec to go behind his net in an effort to stop it. It bounced off his stick in front of the net where Nazem Kadri was there to pop it home for his 20th of the season.
Late goal back-breaker
The Maple Leafs appeared to be headed to the dressing room up by a goal, but Jacob Trouba struck with two seconds remaining to tie it 2-2. Reimer was down way too early and Trouble had an easy goal.
Bad penalty, good goal
With Toronto's Paul Ranger off for holding, Winnipeg defenceman Tobias Enstrom gave the Jets their first lead of the game with a slap shot from the right point at 17:02 of the second period.
You've got to be Jokinen
With the Maple Leafs stumbling around in their own zone, veteran Olli Jokinen scored a goal from the high slot at 7:09 of the third to give the Jets a cozy two-goal lead.
Lupul returns, Lupul leaves
Left-winger Joffrey Lupul returned to the Maple Leafs lineup after missing Thursday's game against Boston with a lower body injury, suspected to be a pulled groin. That meant Jerry D'Amigo, up from the AHL Marlies, was scratched.
Lupul left the game early in the third period after aggravating the injury.
Stripped down version
Canadian pop stars Barenaked Ladies sang Oh Canada before the game.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.
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