Leafs blow 5-0 lead in overtime loss to Blues
It was the most shocking comeback seen in Toronto since Carl Brewer.
Jochen Hecht's game winner just 18 seconds into overtime capped off one of the more incredible rallies in recent memory, as the St. Louis Blues scored six unanswered goals to stun the Maple Leafs, 6-5 at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday.
What is most remarkable is that the Maple Leafs led 5-0 with 15:09 to go in the third period.
But a pair of goals by Alexander Khavanov, Chris Pronger, Al MacInnis and Michal Handzus evened the score for the Blues (16-4-3-0).
Pavol Demitra added assists on the final three goals, including the overtime winner.
Demitra stripped Tomas Kaberle of the puck behind the net and threaded a pass past rookie Petr Svoboda to Hecht, who buried it by Curtis Joseph.
"Crazy," Blues head coach Joel Quenneville said. "I've never seen us play like that for 40 minutes.
"But one spark got us going."
"That's hockey," Joseph added. "That was one of the strangest games I've ever been part of.
"Unbelievable how it happened."
Tie Domi had two goals and one assist, while Garry Valk, Mats Sundin and Dave Manson also counted in a losing cause for the Leafs (12-7-3-2).
Domi, in fact, registered what Gordie Howe coined a "Saskatchewan hat trick" (goal, assist, fight).
"That was our worst period of the year," Domi said. "It was our two best periods of the year, then our worst.
"But we believe in ourselves, we'll stick together."
Toronto was similarly victimized by the Calgary Flames in a 6-5 overtime loss at Maple Leaf Gardens on Jan. 26, 1987.
"I don't know how the hell this happened," said a seething Pat Quinn, Leafs head coach and general manager.
The Leafs stormed out of the gate and outshot the Blues 8-2 by the time Valk opened the scoring at 8:38 of the first.
Valk's initial backhand was kicked out by Turek, but the veteran winger lifted the rebound over the prone netminder.
It was the first goal scored by either team in 73 1/2 minutes after a scoreless draw at the Kiel Center on Nov. 4.
Valk later earned an assist with a splendid backhand pass between two defenders that sprung Nik Antropov, who unleashed a hard slapshot.
Turek turned it aside, but a hard-charging Domi fought off Craig Conroy and, with one hand, flipped in the rebound to make it 2-0 at 3:18 of the second.
Sundin increased the Leafs advantage to 3-0 at 12:04 with his first goal in 13 games.
The struggling captain took a drop pass from Sergei Berezin, swooped around back of the Blues net and bounced a pass off the side netting that rolled down Turek's back and in.
Moments after Tucker was stoned by Turek on a breakaway, he banked a back pass off the boards to Manson at the point, who slapped it in for a 4-0 edge at 14:15.
For Manson, it was his first goal in a Leafs jersey and the 99th of his NHL career.
Domi's second goal came 2:54 into the third when his pass intended for Antropov slid under defenceman Jeff Finley and through the pads of a startled Turek.
Rookie Brent Johnson replaced Turek between the pipes and promptly stopped Yanic Perreault on a breakaway.
Amazingly, the rookie needed to make only one more save to earn the victory as the Blues outshot the Leafs, 16-1 thereafter.
"Never give up," Pronger said. "We didn't say much in the second intermission other than let's go and try to win the period.
"We got a couple of lucky bounces and got back into it."
Pronger spoiled Joseph's shutout bid with a hard drive to the top corner on the glove side at 4:51.
But that was merely the beginning.
Khavanov and MacInnis brought the Blues to within two at 5-3 with powerplay goals at 6:53 and 8:37, respectively.
St. Louis cut the deficit to 5-4 with 5:40 left when Pavol Demitra's flip pass glanced off a backpeddling Manson and directly to Handzus, who swatted the rolling puck past Joseph.
Khavanov tied it 5-5 in a frenzied final minute of regulation on a quick snapshot from the deep slot with 25 seconds remaining.
"We couldn't give up, we're professionals," Khavanov said. "You can't just play 40 minutes and leave the game.
"There were 20,000 people paying money to watch a hockey game."
Afterwards, the Blues announced that they had acquired Mike Peluso from the Washington Capitals for Derek Bekar.
Peluso, 26, had 12 goals and 10 assists in 19 games for the AHL's Portland Pirates and will be assigned to the Worcester IceCats.