It has been a tough stretch for the Maple Leafs but they managed a bunch of ‘firsts’ that were desperately needed. A bunch of ‘firsts’ that give you the sense that this team is capable of performing better than they have as of late.
It was March 13, 2014 when the Leafs came out of a 2-0 deficit to beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-2. A lot has changed since then, but one thing remained constant. The Leafs weren’t able to win a game where they trailed by two or more goals in a game — until tonight.
“The way it’s been going, it’s nice to get a few bounces and stuff to go in,” said Tyler Bozak, who had many firsts himself. “Most importantly, it was a pretty inspiring night for us with G-man joining the team and he gave us a huge boost so it was awesome to get a win for him.”
Perhaps all it took was a little inspiration.
G-man is none other than Garrett Gamble who was signed to a one-day contract as part of the Children’s Wish Foundation.
The Saskatchewan native was born with a rare disease called Morquio Syndrome. The 11-year old dropped the puck during the ceremonial faceoff and wore number 42, the same as Bozak.
Bozak registered his first career hat trick, scoring all three goals in the third period. He assisted on Eric Brewer’s overtime winner capping his first career four-point night.
Bozak also dominated in the faceoff circle, winning 16 of 17 faceoffs against the Senators.
For Brewer, it was his first goal as a Leafs in 12 games.
“It’s been a grind, I’d be lying if I said otherwise,” Brewer said. “I think we’re starting to play a little bit better. There’s still some work to do.”
What had been lacking for a long time was a fighting spirit. An early deficit had felt like doomsday for the Leafs. But they showed some character being able to fight against a team that badly needed two points and ultimately had to settle for one.
“We’re always pushing to play a team game and you want your top line to continue to get chances,” said Leafs interim coach Peter Horachek. “They certainly came through, we have to give them all the credit in the world for coming through in a big game.”
Special teams played a role, scoring their first-power-play goal since March 26th.
Sure, the playoffs are not possible. But there is still some satisfaction in being able to play the spoiler role to your provincial rivals. The Leafs dealt a bit of a blow to Ottawa’s playoff chances, with the team still on the outside looking in after tonight.
James Reimer got a win over a team he typically dominated. While this season has presented challenges for the Manitoba native, Reimer is now 11-3-1 all-time against the Senators.
You’re only as good as your last game, and the Leafs showed some fight on Saturday night.