The Maple Leafs' David Clarkson, right, is congratulated by teammates Nazem Kadri and Mason Raymond, left, after scoring the game-winning goal on Tuesday. Clarkson's goal snapped a 17-game drought. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)
On a night when their team needed them both, Maple Leafs newcomers Dave Bolland and David Clarkson came through tp keep Toronto's fading playoff hopes alive.
The new guys stepped up to the plate, finally.
Newcomers David Clarkson and David Bolland, who have both suffered through awful initial seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, each for different reasons, scored goals 3:31 apart to break a 1-1 tie and help the Maple Leafs snap a season-altering eight-game losing streak with a 3-2 win over visiting Calgary on Tuesday night.
The Maple Leafs did not look like a desperate team through the first 40 minutes playing against a weaker opponent (just barely weaker, mind you), but they conjured up enough energy to record a much-needed third-period victory.
On a night when the Washington Capitals lost and the Columbus Blue Jackets managed just one point, the Maple Leafs will go to bed thinking their slim playoff hopes are still alive.
Bolland missed most of the season with a severed tendon in the back of his left ankle while Clarkson's play has been subpar and severely affected by suspensions and injuries. On a night when their team needed them both, the natives of Mimico, Ont., came through.
With the game tied 1-1, Toronto defenceman Morgan Rielly took off up the ice and took a pass from Joffrey Lupul. As he cut to the Calgary net he spotted centre David Bolland open at the other side of the net. Bolland was unable to handle Rielly's hard pass, but the puck bounced to Calgary defenceman T.J. Brodie who accidentally kicked it into the net behind startled goaltender Karri Ramo.
Just 3:31 later, Clarkson was sent in alone on a nifty pass from Mason Raymond and scored what proved to be the winning goal. He was determined not to be turned back by Ramo.
"I think there was a lot of buildup there when I realized I had [the puck]," Clarkson said. "It's always a team game, but it's no secret it has been tough. Personally I'm not happy with the season and I hold myself accountable. I've got to be better, but the big thing is we've got five games left and as a team we've got to play hard every night, be good in our own zone and take care of what we can."
The Flames made things interesting thanks to a goal by Kris Russell at 7:24, a laser shot to the top corner of the net, but the Maple Leafs were able to survive a late charge by the visitors.
Low points for artistic impression
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle was obviously delighted with the victory, but was very realistic about the problems his team had attaining the win.
"It's been a long time; too long," said Toronto coach Randy Carlyle. "It is a much better feeling than we have been able to enjoy here over the last little while; that's for sure. You hope now that you can build on it, but I don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves because we didn't paint a Mona Lisa here tonight."
Smiles all around
The Maple Leafs dressing room has been a pretty depressing place to hang out in for the past couple of weeks for obvious reasons. The win was not a monumental victory, to be sure, but the players will take it.
"It beats losing, that's for sure," said defenceman Cody Franson. "We tightened up our defensive zone and limited their quality chances and made it a little easier for ourselves tonight."
The pain of it all
Midway through the first period Toronto's leading scorer Phil Kessel had a shift he'd rather forget. First he gave the puck away and then he took a shot off his already aching foot. He vented at the bench smashing his stick in half, with one half flying back onto the ice.
The Flames started five southern Ontario natives against the Maple Leafs. They had Mark Giordano (Toronto) and T.J. Brodie (Chatham) on defence with Brian McGrattan (Hamilton), Sean Monahan (Brampton) and Matt Stajan (Mississauga) up front. Starting goalie Karri Ramo is from Finland.
Am I in wrong net?
The Maple Leafs have had many games this season in which it took them a long time to register their first shot on goal. Tuesday night, however, it was the Flames who didn't get a shot on goal until 10:07. Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier must have wondered if he was at the right end of the rink.
Long time coming
Jay McClement of the Maple Leafs took a pass in front of the Flames net from defenceman Cody Franson and tipped the puck home for his fourth goal of the season at the 50-second mark of the second period. It was the first goal in 18 games for the checking forward.
The Flames appeared to tie the game at 6:53 of the second when veteran Curtis Glencross tipped home a shot from the point, but after it was reviewed the goal was waved off because if went in off a high stick.
Ex-Leaf ties it
Matt Stajan snuck in behind the defensive pairing of Jake Gardiner and Franson and was given a long breakaway pass from Calgary defender T.J. Brodie. He deked Bernier and slipped the puck in between his legs for his 13th goal of the season.
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.