Sometimes the excitement of an NHL game is contained within a few mere moments of the 60 minutes of playing time. Toronto's 4-1 win over Colorado on Saturday was a good case in point.
The defending Stanley Cup champion Avalanche were in town for their first and only meeting of the year with the Leafs. However, the encounter did not generate much of a spark on the Excitement-O-Meter. There was no palpable electricity in the building about the game, no sense of event.
"There wasn't much excitement in the first couple of periods. We were just a little sluggish," said Alexander Mogilny., who appeared to be speaking on behalf of both clubs.
It seemed like the combatants were on the undercard of a heavyweight title, perhaps with the main event scheduled for next weekend when Toronto and New Jersey hit the ice for a home-and-home series, the first meetings since last year's intense seven-game Eastern Conference Semifinal battle.
Even a much-anticipated matchup between Canadian Olympic goalie candidates Curtis Joseph and Patrick Roy did not occur as the Avs netminder was given the night off following duties on Friday in Minnesota.
"There haven't been many times when I've played against his team and Patrick wasn't in the net," Joseph said following the contest. "But this is the perfect time for the other guy to play. It's back-to-back and you get a little tired, especially mentally, and you have more chance to get dehydrated and get injured."
Unconfirmed reports suggest that buckets of ice water were tossed in the face of several players during the first intermission. Awakening from the sleepy stupor, each team managed to pop a goal within 75 seconds of play into the second period, but it was generally a listless game.
Listless, that is, until about six minutes into third when Colorado dinged one off the post, Robert Reichel had a good scoring opportunity, Tomas Kaberle rushed to the net for another solid chance, Shayne Corson hit a fleet Alexander Mogilny in full stride with a cross-ice pass and the slumping Russian winger whistled one of his patented wrist shots into the top corner to end a goal-less streak of 10 games.
The final flurry came when Darcy Tucker scored an empty net goal and Mats Sundin cemented it a further 21 seconds later.
"We did a lot of things right tonight," Joseph said. "It's a good feeling, especially when you haven't played for a few days. We hope that over the long haul we look as good as we did tonight."
The Leafs did not look aesthetically pleasing but the outcome was the right vision.In the span of 60 minutes of ice time in an NHL game, there were but a few flurries of excitement, but that, combined with the victory for the home team, still made it worthwhile.
Perhaps this was an event after all.
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